There are a couple of striking similarities between Coleraine and Europa League opponents La Fiorita.
As well as both clubs having their season curtailed in March by the Covid pandemic, the respective clubs are led by returning managers. Oran Kearney’s successful return after a season with St. Mirren has been well documented.
But Fiorita has also gone back to the future … bringing Juri Tamburini in for a second spell to try and revive their fortunes too. And despite little on paper to separate the teams, it is Kearney – and several thousand Coleraine supporters – who is hoping to come out on top come Thursday night.
The San Marino outfit are expected to arrive in the Province on Wednesday and Kearney is under no illusions as to the threat they pose.
“Make no mistake, we are going to have to produce a big performance but we have that in our locker,” said the Coleraine boss.
“Fiorita have done well to qualify so they have earned the right.”
Midfield maestro Stephen Lowry played against this week’s opponents during his Linfield days. They achieved their only European draw to date against the Blues, losing the tie narrowly by a single goal.
“They pushed Linfield all the way on that occasion and Stephen says they were physical and well organised,” added Oran.
The key to success will be making home advantage count, even without the fans.
“It would have been great to have had a big crowd in to get behind us,” continued Oran.
“But it is a one-off home tie and we have to find a way to make it an advantage.”
Adam Mullan, Gareth McConaghie and Jamie Glackin continue to recover from injury. Otherwise, it’s a full squad for the manager to pick from.
The players will have their final training session at the Showgrounds tonight to go over set piece routines etc.
Then it’s all about Thursday and getting down to battle!