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17 Aug 2022
© Pacemaker Press Daniel Finlayson in action last week in Zurich

Linfield's European adventures continue this evening when the Blues travel to Latvia to face Rīgas Futbola Skola (RFS) in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League play-off, kick-off 6pm.

The stakes are high for David Healy's as victory over the two legs will see them qualify for the group stages of the competition which will be a first on the European stage for both them and a club from Northern Ireland.

Linfield's continental journey so far this summer has taken them to Wales (The New Saints) and Norway (Bodø / Glimt) in the Champions' League, then onto Switzerland (FC Zurich) in the Europa League.

The Blues limbered up for tonight's game with a 4-0 defeat of Portadown at Windsor Park on Sunday to kick off their Danske Bank Premiership title defence.

Their opponents are well into their domestic season. Currently third in the local Virsliga after 24 games, RFS where last in action at the weekend when they swept past Tukums in the cup.

Latvian double winners last season, RFS went out on penalties in the Champions League to Finnish side HJK Helsinki but clocked up a 4-2 aggregate win over Maltese opponents Hibernians in the last round of the Conference League to reach this stage.

Managed by former Latvian international Viktors Morozs, RFS can boast a multi-national squad amongst their numbers including players from Lithuania, Slovenia, Serbia, Russia, Gambia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Austria, Ivory Coast and Brazil.

Former Lithuanian international Vytautas Černiauskas will be the man the Linfield strike force will need to beat once they get past a defence featuring Slovenian Žiga Lipušček and current Latvian senior international Vladislavs Sorokins while, in midfield, Petr Mareš (5 goals in 19 league appearances) and Alfusainey Jatta (2 goals, 20 appearances) will be looking to control proceedings.

Serbian striker Andrej Ilić is their leading scorer, having bagged 12 goals so far this term including three in European competition. Threats up front also come from Deniss Rakels and Brazilian Emerson Deocleciano (seven goals apiece), as well as Austrian Kevin Friesenbichler on six.

The return will be at Windsor Park next Thursday evening (25th).