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Irish Premiership: Linfield have ‘unfinished business’ in Europe – David Healy – BBC Sport

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Image source, Pacemaker Press

Image caption, Healy’s Linfield came close to qualifying for the Europa Conference League group stage in 2022

Europa Conference League first qualifying round first leg: Stjarnan v Linfield

Date: Thursday, 11 July Venue: Stjörnuvöllur Kick-off: 20:00 BST

Coverage: Text updates & report on BBC Sport website & app

Linfield boss David Healy says his side have “unfinished business” in the Europa Conference League ahead of their first qualifying round first leg against Stjarnan.

The Blues were agonisingly beaten by Latvian side RFS 4-2 on penalties in the final qualifying round before the group stage in 2022.

That was the closest any Irish Premiership side has come to reaching the group stage of a European competition and Healy admits the dramatic defeat still haunts him.

“For me, it is one I look back on and think it is a huge regret that we didn’t progress how we should have done,” he told BBC Sport NI.

‘You can’t dwell on it’ – Shields

Image source, Pacemaker Press

Image caption, Shields played in the penalty shootout defeat against RFS

Healy continued: “We missed a golden opportunity, I thought we were so good on the night and found a way not to go through, so it is unfinished business.”

Whilst his boss still thinks of the loss, Linfield midfielder Chris Shields, who played in both legs against RFS, is a firm believer of leaving that game in the past.

He does, however, hope that his side will take confidence from coming so close to reaching the group stage two years ago.

“You can’t dwell on it, or you’ll never get over it and it will always haunt you and you’ll never progress the way we want to progress,” he admitted.

“It goes to show it is within an arm’s reach. Last year in Europe wasn’t the best for Irish League clubs but we’ve shown it is not too far away. You need some luck and with the system, a scalp along the way.”

‘Difficult’ Icelandic venue

Image source, Pacemaker Press

Image caption, Linfield were knocked out of Europa Conference League qualifying at the second round stage by Pogon Szczecin last season

Linfield are back in the Europa Conference League having finished second in the Irish Premiership behind Larne for a second successive season.

Their European journey ended at the second qualifying round last season as they lost 8-4 on aggregate against Pogon Szczecin.

They face a trip to Iceland for their tie with Stjarnan, who are six games into their domestic season.

The Blues had a warm weather training camp in Poland and have played a number of friendlies to prepare for the first leg.

Healy conceded that it has been hard to do a thorough analysis of the opposition however and that Stjarnan’s artificial pitch may pose a few problems.

The former Northern Ireland international also confirmed that there are injury worries over “two or three” players.

“We go into the game blind sighted a bit, but we have done the necessary homework and all our work is geared to getting through the first round,” he explained.

“They’re not having the best of seasons, but we know they’re capable of scoring goals, they’re a young, athletic team and it will be a difficult venue for the first leg with the surface they play on.”

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