Stephen Baxter’s squad travelled to Birmingham yesterday ahead of their clash with Wolverhampton Warriors tonight at 7.45pm.
The Belfast outfit has their work cut out for them as they face Nuno Espirito Santo’s sidethat finished 7th in last season’s Premiership and reached the FA Cup Semi-Finals.
Irish Cup champions Crusaders defeated B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands in the first qualifying round whilst this is Wolves first European game in thirty nine years since they lost 3-2 on aggregate to Eindhoven.
Crusaders are under no illusion as to the magnitude of this game and scale of defeat they could face if they don’t baton down the hatches in tonight’s match. Last season Wolves beat all the top six teams except Man City, so the part time Irish League players can’t help but be daunted facing this exceptional side on their home turf.
Cru’s manager Baxter told the media “”We’re trying to get enough work done, trying to get as much information as we can and see what type of formation they (Wolves) work to,” said the Crusaders manager.
“It will be a full house and a fabulous experience for everybody.
“We’ve played big teams before but it will be a tough task. If we can get out of there even with a 2-0 or 3-0 (defeat) that might be a very good result.”
Crusaders most experienced striker Jordan Owens played in the squad who faced ex- Premiership side Fulham back in 2011 in the second qualifying round which Crusaders lost 7-1 on aggregate, so he is no stranger to David and Goliath battles.
Crusaders striker Jordan Owens told the Belfast Telegraph ““It will be some experience for the boys, I think everyone wants to play in the game.”
“Wolves finished seventh in the Premier League last season and Manchester City were the only top side to beat team.
“I’ve never been to Molineux and it’s going to be a special experience, albeit very tough.
“We are part-time players going up against a quality full-time side.
“You are hoping to keep it about 3-0 before the return leg at Seaview, and the guys will certainly want to keep the score down.
“The Premier League is probably the best league in the world and we just aren’t used to playing in that atmosphere in front of such a big crowd.
“But everyone is buzzing about the game and it gave us great incentive to beat B36 Torshavn to set up the game.”
Owens also spoke of ambition to net one against the Premiership side “I’m thinking about getting two touches of the ball, not scoring a goal but if a chance comes my way I’ll need to take it,” he says.
“It will be a dream to score against a Premier League club.
“We will give it our best shot and see where it takes us. I might end up at centre back quite a bit. It’s important we keep the score down.”
It remains to be seen if Crusaders can contain the team which consists of players who have 156 Europa League and 167 Champions League appearances between them, especially goal keeper Rui Patrico who has ninety three appearances under his belt in European football.
Either way it a big night for the Belfast club will who net a minimum of 450k for getting this far!
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