Shamrock Rovers face Italian giants AC Milan in a European qualifier tomorrow night, here is everything you need to know.
What is the competition?
Seven-time European Cup winners AC Milan may be more accustomed to the Champions League but this is a Europa League second round qualifier.
The winners of this tie still face a third qualifying round and a play-off round before the group stages of the competition.
What time is kick-off?
The Tallaght Stadium clash kicks off at 7pm on Thursday evening.
Where channel is it on?
The game will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player. Coverage will start at 6.30pm ahead of the 7pm kick-off.
Will there be fans?
Despite the Government’s latest roadmap allowing for limited amounts of fans at stadiums (100 in Dublin), UEFA rules state that all ties will be played behind closed doors.
What big names will Shamrock Rovers face?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the name on Shamrock Rovers’ minds as the Swedish striker has been included in the AC Milan squad.
The superstar looked set to miss the game with a leg injury but he has recovered in time to make the trip to Dublin.
The 38-year-old is not the only big name in the Milan squad.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Danish defender Simon Kjaer, former Manchester City man Brahim Diaz and midfielder Franck Kessie will also travel to Dublin.
Here is the full Milan squad:
Goalkeepers: Donnarumma, A, Donnarumma, G, Tatarusanu.
Defenders: Calabria, Duarte, Gabbia, Hernandez, Kjaer, Laxalt.
Midfielders: Bennacer, Calhanoglu, Diaz, Kessie, Krunic, Saelemaekers, Tonali.
Forwards: Castillejo, Colombo, Ibrahimovic, Maldini.
Will there be fans at the game?
The Government’s updated ‘Living with Covid’ roadmap allows for 100 fans at games in Dublin but tomorrow’s game will still be behind closed doors. UEFA rules state that all games will go ahead behind closed doors so there will be no fans at Tallaght Stadium.
What is at stake?
For Milan, Europa League qualification is the minimum. Anything but a win for the Serie A giants would be a massive upset.
Dundalk were the last Irish side to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League, under Stephen Kenny in 2016, and it would be a historic victory for Rovers if they pulled off an upset (regardless of whether they got through the next two qualification rounds).
While the game will be massive for the profile of the club, and the League of Ireland as a whole, Rovers’ main aim remains a league title.
They currently sit eight points ahead of rivals Bohemians in the League of Ireland Premier Division.
Shamrock Rovers: 22/1
AC Milan: 1/18
Draw (in 90 minutes): 9/1
What are the clubs saying?
Rovers manager Stephen Bradley believes his club can “cause problems” for AC Milan.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult game obviously, but we’ll go with a game plan to try and win the game like we always do,” Bradley told the club’s official website.
“We know there’s going to be times in the game when we’re up against it and we’re going to have to dig in.
“That’s only normal when you play against a team of this quality, but I honestly believe that we have enough quality to cause any team problems and create chances.
“I think Thursday will be no different.”
Rovers normally dominate possession in domestic games but Bradley has a different game plan for tomorrow.
“You have to understand the quality of player you’re up against, it’s going to be really high and there’s going to be periods in the game where you’re not going to have the ball,” Bradley said.
“You’ve got to be comfortable with that and ready for that, and be ready to work and put in a shift.
“But there’s going to be patches in the game where we will get possession and chances and we’ve got to be ready to take them.”
Milan boss Stefano Pioli insists his side will not underestimate Rovers.
Pioli said: “Our season begins with Shamrock Rovers. Unfortunately, we have one or two big absentees, but we need look at the positives that this can bring to the game. We know how tough these first matches can be: they’ve played more games and have more minutes in the legs. We’ll need to be alert for 90 minutes.”
Meanwhile, Milan legend and current technical director Paolo Maldini claims the club are “rightly worried” about facing Rovers.
Maldini told Sky Italia: “We are ready, I hope. It’s a game that scares us a lot. It’s a team that is doing well, first in their league, we have some problems, Rebic disqualified, Leao injured. We play away from home in a knockout match, we are rightly worried.”