Irish League sides begin Europa League campaigns

Crusaders played Rosenborg in the Europa League in 2012
Crusaders played Rosenborg in the Europa League in 2012

Irish Premiership clubs Crusaders, Glenavon and Linfield are in Europa League action on Thursday night.

Irish Cup winners Glenavon arrived in Iceland on Wednesday for their match against Hafnarfjordur after a delay caused by a flight cancellation.

Premiership runners-up Linfield are in the Faroe Islands to play B36 Torshavn who they played two years ago.

Crusaders, who finished third in the Premiership, are at home to FK Ekranus of Lithuania in their first leg.

Assistant boss Jeff Spiers, standing in for manager Stephen Baxter who is on holiday, feels the Crues have a chance of progressing.

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"In the last couple of seasons we drew Fulham and Rosenberg and both were the top seeds," said Spiers.

"Ekranus are not top seeds so we feel we are in with a shout.

"You don't have much time to prepare but we have the stats on them and have watched some of their matches in the internet, so we have some knowledge."

Crusaders, whose only warm-up game was a 3-3 draw with Airbus UK Broughton, have several new players in their squad.

Versatile defender Billy Joe Burns has joined from Linfield and striker Diarmuid O'Carroll from Cliftonville.

Spiers has also been impressed by young forward Stephen Cockcroft whom the Crues recruited from Championship club H&W Welders.

Linfield are playing Faroe Islands opposition for the third year in a row. In 2012 the Belfast side beat B36 in a Champions League penalty shoot-out.

The match will be former Northern Ireland striker Warren Feeney's first match in charge of Linfield. He was appointed as the long-serving David Jeffrey's successor in May.

Glenavon's preparations for their game against Hafnarfjordur have been hampered by their travel problems.

Their flight to Birmingham on Tuesday was cancelled because of a technical difficulty and they did not arrive in Iceland until Wednesday.

Player-manager Gary Hamilton described the situation as 'a shambles' but said they would get on with the job.

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