16 Sep 2020
After a short break from competitive action, Linfield will once again kick a ball in earnest on Thursday evening when they host Maltese side Floriana in the Europa League Second Qualifying Round.
As per current UEFA stipulations, this single one-off tie will be played to a finish behind closed doors but the stakes couldn't be higher. Win this game and the Blues will then face either Estonia's Flora Tallinn or KR Reykjavik from Iceland and, beyond that, a play-off for a place in the group stages of the competition.
Obviously David Healy's men obviously need to overcome Floriana at Windsor Park first. Like Linfield, they moved across from the Champions League after losing at home to Romanian outfit CFR Cluj by two unanswered goals, albeit one of those came six minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game.
However, that single outing has been Floriana's only competitive game since the suspension of football activities at the beginning of March whereas Linfield have come through the Preliminary Round tournament followed by a very narrow defeat of Polish giants Legia Warsaw.
Formed in 1894, Floriana have been Maltese champions on 26 occasions, although the 2019/20 title was their first since the early 90s.
On the European stage, this season is their first involvement since 2017 when they lost 6-3 on aggregate to Red Star Belgrade although they did hold the Serbian side to a credible 3-3 draw at home.
Managed by Italian coach Vincenzo Potenza, Floriana included players from no fewer than seven different nationalities in their panel for the game against Cluj. Amongst this number were two from Argentina and a further three Brazilians although the club's danger man during their latest campaign was Albanian Kristian Keqi, who bagged 14 goals in 20 games.
Linfield, for their part, limbered up for the game with a training game against Coleraine. Boss Healy will have almost a full panel to select from with the exception of the suspended Kirk Millar, sent-off in the last round.
The Linfield manager told the official club site, "The players are fit, they're healthy and they're ready. They're excited about going into a game that we feel that if we perform to our capabilities we can win. But it's also a game that if we go into with the wrong mentality or if we're short on fitness, energy or attitude we could end up losing."
The game will be streamed live on the BBC Sport NI website, kick-off 7:45pm.