Shamrock Rovers’ manager Michael O’Neill may be somewhat in the dark over their Tuesday night Champions League opponents but SportsnewsIreland has the lowdown on Estonian champions FC Flora of Tallinn.
O’Neill had to send former midfielder Shane Robinson on a reconnaissance mission to watch the Estonian side in action as their only game since the second qualifying round draw clashed with Rovers’ match with St. Pat’s last Sunday.
Robinson may have had difficulty getting a read on Flora as city rivals Nomme Klaju equalised from a goalmouth scramble in the last minute to draw a hectic game 3-3.
Flora lead 2-0 early in the second half only to let Klaju back into it with two quick goals.
The champions thought they had it sown up when they made it 3-2 in the closing stages only for the referee to award the indirect free-kick which lead to the goal when goalkeeper Marko Meerits attempted to run down the clock by holding onto the ball for more than six seconds.
Flora have not lost any of their 16 league games this season, winning 12.
The stats suggest a solid defence as they’ve only conceded eight goals in those games.
Up front they’ve averaged around 2 goals a game, netting 33 times in 16 games.
The Estonian league granted Flora the weekend off so they will come to Tallaght fresh having had nine days to prepare.
Rovers also won’t enjoy the advantage that the summer league often gives Irish teams in Europe as the Estonian league is also played during the warmer months.
Ones to watch
Henri Anier – The 20 year old is one of the leading lights of Estonian football having gone on trial at Sampdoria for the first half of last season and making his debut for the national team last month.
Anier has scored ten goals this season and looks to be the main threat for the Estonians.
Gert Kams – A solid but creative right-back who has established himself in the national team over the last few years.
Billy Dennehy will need to be on his game to get much out of Kams and can’t afford to let him get forward too often as he is capable of doing damage when he gets space in front of him.
Valeri Minkenen – In 2008 while playing for Shane Robinson’s current club FC Haka of Finland the midfielder scored a rather fortuative free kick in a 4-0 win over Cork City.
Minkenen has continued to trouble from set pieces and two of his three goals this season have come from the penalty spot.
The Meistiliiga is one of the weakest leagues in Europe and attendances rarely exceed more than a few hundred at games.
Like the League of Ireland not all teams are full-time professional outfits and the league is largely seen as a nursery for larger countries in particular the Scandinavian leagues.
FC Flora of Tallinn or Mittetulundusühing Jalgpalliklubi Football Club Flora to give them their full title are Estonia’s most successful club having won the league eight times in their 21 year history.
They’ve also won the cup five times in that period and had a clean sweep last year winning all three competitions including the Estonian Super Cup.
They wear green and white, alternating between hoops and stripes in their time and are nicknamed Triibulised which translates as The Striped, or The Hoops if you want to be poetic.
Flora have won only four of their 34 games in European competition, though did they record a memorable 1-0 win over Brondby in Denmark in 2009.
Shamrock Rovers 4/7 Draw 12/5 Flora Tallinn 9/2
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