FC MIDTIYLLAND manager, Jess Thorup insists he would be foolish to take the challenge of Derry City lightly as he prepares to host the Candy Stripes in the first leg of the Europa League qualifier in Denmark this Thursday night.
The former Danish U21 manager, who guided Midtiylland to a famous 2-1 first leg victory over Manchester United in 2016, says the club’s main ambition this season is to progress to the UEFA Europa League Group stages.
And while he admits to knowing very little about his first round qualifier opponents or, indeed, the League of Ireland, he won’t be taking any chances against Kenny Shiels’ troops at the MCH Arena in Herning this week.
“To be honest I don’t know much about Derry City and I don’t know how much Derry knows about FC Midtiylland,” Thorup told the ‘Journal’.
“But I had a guy watching the game against Cork City on Friday and I have a couple of games to watch and got the scout report this morning. So that’s about all I know about Derry City at the moment, which is not that much,” he admitted.
“It’s a game we look forward to. It’s one of our main goals this season - to get through to the Group Stages of the Europa League. To achieve that goal we have to beat Derry City and I think that could be a difficult match for us.”
This is the most important game for me. This is the next game and I will play the best team I can play - definitely.Jess Thorup
Derry City are rank outsiders against a club who were ranked among the top two of the 100 seeded teams in the qualifying draw. However, Thorup has warned his players to guard against complacency.
“When you’re playing in Europe the biggest mistake you can make is to underestimate your opponent,” said the Dane. “Every club thinks they have a chance whenever they get into Europe. We see the smaller clubs have a chance against the bigger clubs - not that I’m saying we’re a bigger club than Derry City - but we will take this game very seriously.”
So will he play his strongest team?
“Definitely, there’s no doubt about that. This is the most important game for me. This is the next game and I will play the best team I can play - definitely.”
Thorup reckons Derry have an added advantage going into the game given they are midway through their league campaign while his players have just returned from a two week holiday following the completion of their season.
“We are in pre-season while Derry are playing regularly which is one issue we have to take care of. I’m looking forward to the first game in Denmark on Thursday.
“It’s a big advantage for Derry City that they are in the middle of their season. My players have been away for 14 days on holiday. They’ve been gone from football for 14 days and haven’t practiced but we are as ready as we can be and everybody is aware that this can be a very difficult game. So we are prepared.
“Whenever you play these European games you can scout but you don’t know the level of your opponent until the game has started.”
The Midtiylland boss guided Denmark to the semi-finals of the European U21 Championships in 2014 and has ambitions of one day managing in the top leagues in Europe. After the club’s success in the Europa League in recent seasons, his best players have been picked off by teams in Europe.
However, with Rafaele van der Vaart, a host of internationals and a Nigerian striker, Paul Onuachu who netted 18 times in the league last year as Midtiylland finished fourth, they are certain to provide a huge test for City who are expected to be without the injured Conor McDermott and Barry McNamee.
“Last year a lot of our best players were sold after some good games in the Europa League and we’ve been rebuilding our squad. So last season was definitely not our best and we ended up being number four.
“We want to participate in Europe every year. That’s our goal and that’s why we take the game against Derry City very seriously. Inside three years we’ve played 20 games in Europe and hopefully that will be many more after this season.”
Derry City has limited places remaining on the club’s chartered flight to Denmark for the first round clash against FC Midtiylland.
Leaving tomorrow morning with the return flight into City of Derry on Friday, the cost is £575 per person which includes flights, two nights bed and breakfast and coach transfers to and from the game. If interested telephone the office on 02871308533.