Warren Feeney ready for AIK Solna backlash as Linfield go for European glory

Linfield's Peter Thompson with AIK's Anton Jansson Saletros during last week's first leg at Mournview Park
Linfield's Peter Thompson with AIK's Anton Jansson Saletros during last week's first leg at Mournview Park

Warren Feeney admits Linfield are going into the lion’s den in Sweden on Thursday night – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Blues take a valuable 1-0 lead into the second leg of their Europa League second qualifying round tie with AIK Solna.

Andy Waterworth’s 87th-minute winner at Mourneview Park last week has given the Irish League representatives a fighting chance of causing a massive shock against the Swedish giants.

All eyes will now be on the Friends Arena for Thursday’s renewal (6pm kick-off BST).

A crowd of 15,000 is expected to descend on Sweden’s national stadium for the clash, and Feeney is expecting a hostile reception following his side’s heroics seven days ago.

“It’ll be a hostile atmosphere,” Feeney said.

“AIK are playing on their home patch in front of their own fans, so it’ll be partisan.

“The Friends Arena is a great stadium and we know we’ll have to deal with the atmosphere, but the players are in confident mood and they should relish the challenge.

“Thursday night will be a totally different game to last week’s at Mourneview.

“I would expect AIK to come at us a lot more. They will have a big crowd behind them and they will be up for it.

“The fact they got beat at the weekend in the league means they will be keen to bounce back.

“But we will go there with a game plan and hopefully cause another upset.”

The size of the challenge facing Linfield is highlighted by the odds being offered on Feeney’s men.

You can get 10/1 for a Blues win in Stockholm, which would guarantee progress to the next qualifying round and a tie with either FC Astana of Kazakhstan or Hapoel Tel Aviv.

“Last week’s 1-0 win was one of the best performances in all my 17 years in football,” Feeney added.

“But we will probably need to raise the bar once again if we want to progress.

“Nobody will fancy us against full-time opposition, but we have a 1-0 lead and something to hold onto. That doesn’t mean we’ll go there with the sole intention of defending.

“I have always said that the first part of defence is attack. Of course, we’ll have to be cautious and disciplined, but we’ll approach the tie with a positive gameplan.”