HB Tórshavn head coach ready for the 'fight' against 'strong favourites' Derry City in Europa Conference League tie

​HB Tórshavn head coach Jákub Martin Joensen insists Derry City are 'strong favourites' to progress to the Europa Conference League second round but warned that his part-time team 'won't go out without a fight'.
HB Torshavn head coach Jákup Martin Joensen. Photograph by Sverri Egholm (portal.fo.)HB Torshavn head coach Jákup Martin Joensen. Photograph by Sverri Egholm (portal.fo.)
HB Torshavn head coach Jákup Martin Joensen. Photograph by Sverri Egholm (portal.fo.)

​It's the first time Joensen will lead a team into European competition when they host the Candy Stripes in the first leg on Thursday at the Faroe Islands' national stadium, Tórsvøllur, a small 6,000 capacity stadium situated on the edge of the capital city Tórshavn.

And while there was plenty of optimism the most successful team in Faroese football could progress after being seeded for the first round draw, that hope quickly diminished when they were paired with Ruaidhri Higgins' Derry.

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Having fallen out of the race for the title in the Effodeildin after a 2-0 defeat to leaders Klaksvík put their faint hopes to bed - now 13 points adrift in third - all eyes have been focussed on improving their European record which has been the subject of much criticism among the Faroese media.

It'll be a 'proud' moment for Joensen to lead his team out in their national stadium which is located 30 yards from their home base, the Gundadalur Stadium.

He's fully aware that his team, which consists of part-time carpenters, car salesmen and students, face a 'huge task' but he's confident they will cause Derry problems.

"I'm excited for the game," said the Tórshavn boss whose team are ranked 83 places above Derry in UEFA’s coefficient. "We are prepared for playing Derry and we want to progress but we can also see we've got a very difficult draw and strong opponents but progressing is a priority for us of course.

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"We actually thought it was one of the toughest teams we could have met in the group we were paired in.

"So it's a very difficult draw but we think we have opportunities. We see Derry as the favorites to go through but they're not so big favourites that we don't have a chance.

"That doesn't mean we will go out without a fight. We have our own weapons and we will make sure we fight.

"We have made an analysis of Derry and of course we get some answers from that but it's not the same to play against them as it is to watch them play.

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"They are playing a really direct, aggressive style of football so it will be a challenge."

"We see them as very strong opponents with a lot of quality so it will be difficult for us. So now we're looking for solutions to beat them over two legs because that's obviously what we want but this is a huge task for us."

HB Tórshavn go into the game on the back of poor league form and while they, like Derry, are midway through their league campaign, Joensen is hoping the fact they can fully focus on the two-legged tie without the distraction of domestic games for the next fortnight could give them an advantage.

"We have quite similar league runs," he said. "We had a good run for seven or eight games, winning most of them and then there was a national break when the national team played.

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"Since then we have played three matches, two losses and one draw and the performances weren't as good as they were before (the break). So we have something to work on.

"I saw Derry have had a similar run. Our job and the players are used to it, we switch off from the national league and have full focus on just the European games.

"We will try to use that as an advantage because we will have to be at our very, very best to have a chance against Derry."

Joensen, who hails from the small northern town of Eysturoy, was part of the coaching staff at B36 Torshavn when they were humbled by an 8-0 aggregate scoreline against Turkish giants Besiktas in the Europa League second round in 2018.

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He's hoping his first experience as head coach in Europe plays out a little differently.

"This is the biggest club in the Faroe Islands. It has won the most championships and cup trophies.

“It is a club that always aims to be at the top, to win the championship and the cup. It is the biggest club that people talk the most about here. Right now Klaksvík is on top this year and won last year and the year before and that's what Havnar Bóltfelag is aiming for to get back there.

"So the ambition for the club every year is to win the championship. That’s the goal every time. It’s very exciting times when the European football comes around.

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"Usually Faroese teams do quite well. Havnar Bóltfelag has not done so well in the past years so we want to break that.

"As we were seeded in the draw we were wishing that we didn't get a team who were top of the league and full of professional football players, and their season was like our season.

"We play spring until winter but most of the other leagues are on a break now and usually that’s an advantage for us and maybe for Derry too.

"Now it's two teams, I’m not sure if we're in the peak of our form, but we're in the middle of our season.

"We have huge respect for Derry and I think football people in the Faroe Islands see Derry as favourites.

"They also think we have a chance but know we have to play to our very best.”