St Patrick's Athletic are gearing up for a reacquaintance with their Icelandic foes IBV in the Europa League on Thursday after impressing the pundits this seasonANALYSIS
By Ryan Kelly
|Coach Magnús Gylfason first came to light in 2003 while previously in charge of IBV. He guided a side predicted for the drop to fifth and second place finishes.
Iceland giants, KR Reykjavik, then hired him but he could not avoid a premature firing.
He took over promoted Vikingur Reykjavik in 2006 and was the first coach in 15 years to keep them up.
After relegation in 2007, he began a successful TV career as a pundit until going back into coaching, taking over IBV for a second time.
The star of the team is Tryggvi Gudmundsson. Earlier this season he broke the scoring record in the Icelandic Premier League, scoring his 127th goal. Even at 37 years old, he is still one of the best in the league.
Danish centre back Rasmus Christiansen arrived three years ago and immediately showed his potential. He is now arguably the best centre half in the league.
Striker Christian Olsen is one of the quickest players around and has also hit form. IBV boast decent English full backs too in George Baldock and Matt Garner.
Gylfason plays a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3, giving Tryggvi a free role of sorts on the left wing or else playing him in the hole.
After failing to win in their first five games in the season, owing to the absence of key players like Tryggvi, IBV have hit top form and won four league games in a row, as well as another in the cup. In these five games, they have scored 19 goals and conceded three.
Tómas Þór Þórðarson
An air of renewed positivity has enveloped Richmond Park since the return of Liam Buckley as manager of St Patrick's Athletic this season and rightly so.
Despite possessing an almost entirely new set of players, the Inchicore club have not experienced too many difficulties with squad cohesion and have instead established themselves as serious title-contenders in second place behind Sligo Rovers.
Their prodigious league form is very much bolstered by their uninhibited style of attacking football, which has allowed them to steamroll some of the top clubs in the division, including bitter rivals and reigning champions Shamrock Rovers, who they dispatched by a 5-1 scoreline.
However, Buckley knows only too well that league form will count for nothing as the Saints prepare to embark on their Europa League odyssey.
Amazingly, Pat's have been paired with Icelandic outfit IBV, who happen to be the very same team they faced in the first qualifying round of the competition last season. The Dublin club eventually overcame IBV, but suffered a scare when they lost 1-0 in Iceland.
“There are no easy games in European football,” Buckley recently told the Irish Daily Star, referring to the loss. “It could be a tricky little tie for us.”
Indeed, having presided over the club's worst result in European competition, an undignified 10-0 aggregate loss to Moldovan side FC Zimbru in 1999, it is fair to say that Buckley is well acquainted with so-called 'tricky little ties'.
Nevertheless, Saints have a respectable record in Europe over the past few seasons; they have never failed to navigate their way through their first European tie in their past three attempts and the former Ireland international will surely use this fact as a source of inspiration for his players.
There is, of course, a possibility that the occasion could affect the Pat's players, especially as they are coming under pressure to maintain their form, and it is also interesting to note that they have also not had much joy in cup competitions this season.
They crashed out of the Setanta Cup early when they lost to Cliftonville and were recently eliminated from the EA Sports Cup at the hands of Shamrock Rovers, so there is a concern that the pressure might be too much for what is a relatively inexperienced squad.
Ultimately however, this competition is the perfect platform for naturally gifted players such as Christy Fagan, Conor Kenna and Chris Forrester to showcase their ability and, considering the wealth of talent generally within the squad, there is no doubt that Buckley's men can emulate Shamrock Rovers and do Irish football proud.