Tallaght Stadium will host a meeting between Shamrock Rovers and Apollon Limassol on Thursday evening as the pair face off for their first leg tie of the Europa League qualifiers. Both sides will be happy with their results and performances last time out, with the home team seeing off Brann over two legs, while Apollon swept FK Kauno Zalgiris aside with ease.
Shamrock Rovers found their trip to Norway difficult and almost came away with nothing after a hard fought game, rescuing a draw late on through Roberto Lopes’s last minute goal to level the score and give them hope for the second leg. Originally, Taijo Teniste provided Brann with an early lead, however defender Lopes, assisted by Jack Byrne, grabbed an equaliser eleven minutes prior to the interval. Brann were awarded a penalty just two minutes later though and Veton Berisha cooly slotted home from the spot, making it 2-1 until Lopes arrived in the box in the 90th minute. Daouda Bamba put Brann in the driving seat during the second encounter, although Byrne brought Rovers back to 1-1 and succeeding that, Gary O’Neill ensured that his side would be progressing to this stage with the game coming to an end.
Apollon made the journey to the Suduva Stadiumfor their first leg of Europa League first round qualification, and took the lead thanks to Ioannis Pittas’ fourteenth minute strike. The game remained tight until Emilio Jose Zelaya netted from twelve yards in the very last minute of the affair, giving his side a crucial second away goal and a 0-2 advantage. The second leg was a far more comprehensive win, with Jose Zelaya scoring twice within the first half, followed by a third in the second to see Apollon go 4-0 up on aggregate and 3-0 on the night. Attila Szalai added a fourth, but in truth the win was certain long before that goal hit the net.
Neil Farrugia may have to sit this one out due to a hamstring problem, but other than that there are zero injury concerns for Shamrock Rovers. Rovers thrashed UCD in the Irish Premier Division in their most recent outing by seven goals to nil, so we can see them repeating that line up in this one as it worked so well for them on that occasion, with 4-3-3 being the formation. Brandon Kavanagh, Lee Grace, Ethan Boyle and Roberto Lopes will make up the defense behind a trio in the middle of Gary O’Neill, Aaron McEneff and Jack Byrne. In attack, it’s expected that Graham Cummins, Daniel Carr and Dylan Watts will lead the line.
Apollon Limassol should have a fully fit squad ready and available for this game, a major boost for confidence considering the importance of the tie. In the away fixture with FK Kauno Zalgiris, Apollon put in a solid display and got what was needed, so we think they’ll attempt to use that formation again on Thursday. Joel Mall will remain as goalkeeper protected by a defense of Hector Yuste and Vahid Selimovic, while Sasa Markovic and Esteban Sacheti sit as a deep two man midfield. As an attacking three, Ioannis Pittas, Fotis Papoulis and Adrian Sardinero will make chances for Jose Zelaya as a lone forward.
This will be a tight affair and neither team will want to be on the wrong end of the scoreline, so we’re expecting a game of few goals here, with under 2.5 goals at 1.57 with Bet365 coming in as our first tip. We think Shamrock Rovers will come away with a victory though due to their increased fitness over their opponents and confidence after such an emotional win last time out, so we are going for Shamrock Rovers to win at 3.20 again with Bet365 as our next tip. Rovers failed to keep a clean sheet against Brann in either leg, but with home advantage and having annihilated UCD at home last week, their belief will be sky high, Rovers to win and BTTS “No” at 4.75 is our final tip.