Warren Feeney hoping Linfield can mark special milestone with memorable win over AIK Solna

Warren Feeney is hoping Linfield can cause a shock against AIK Solna
Warren Feeney is hoping Linfield can cause a shock against AIK Solna

Warren Feeney admits it will be a “huge honour” to lead Linfield into their 100th European game on Thursday night.

The Blues are preparing to face Swedish outfit AIK Solna at Mourneview Park (7.45pm).

The Europa League second qualifying round, first leg tie will mark a century of games in Europe for Linfield.

In 99 previous fixtures since 1959, the south Belfast giants have featured in the European Cup, UEFA Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup, Europa League and Champions League – winning 16, drawing 29 and losing 54.

Thursday’s milestone comes on the first leg due to the fact the return leg of a European Cup tie against Vorwaerts in 1961 was cancelled after the East German players were denied visas to travel to Belfast.

New Blues boss Feeney is relishing the challenge of facing top Swedish opposition in Europe, and hopes Linfield can mark the special occasion with a positive result.

“It’s a huge honour to lead the club into its 100th game in Europe – it is a massive landmark for the club and a special occasion,” Feeney said.

“Hopefully we can mark the occasion with a big performance and a good result.

“We know how tough it is going to be, and we know we are huge underdogs to cause an upset.

“But these are the games you want to be involved in. I never shirked a challenge when I played for Northern Ireland and we got some big results along the way.

“This is a game we should relish and the players should go out and express themselves.

“People will write us off going into this tie, but that’s fine. At the end of the day it is 11 vs 11 on the pitch and all the pressure is on AIK to progress.”

Linfield held on for a spirited 3-2 aggregate win against B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands in the first qualifying round.

Goals from Jamie Mulgrew and Michael Carvill helped record a 2-1 win away from home, with Carvill again on target in last week’s 1-1 draw in Lurgan.

“It was a tough tie but the players showed great character,” Feeney added.

“They dug in and got the result.

“Obviously this is going to be a far bigger test against AIK. They have quality players all over the park.”

AIK lie second in the Allsvenskan, five points adrift of leaders Malmo.

Included in their squad is former Blackburn defender Nils-Eric Johansson, and midfielder Celso Borges who featured in all five of Costa Rica’s World Cup games in Brazil – scoring in penalty shootouts against Greece and the Netherlands.

“They have a number of top players in their ranks, including the likes of Borges and their Finnish striker Eeron Markkanen who is a real danger man,” Feeney added.

“We have done our research and we know they are a quality side, but we are looking forward to the occasion.”