Europa League: Crusaders boss Baxter urges side not to become 'tourists' against Wolves

Crusaders lift Irish Cup
Crusaders qualified for the Europa League qualifying stage by winning the Irish Cup in May
Europa League second qualifying round: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Crusaders
Venue: Molineux Date: Thursday, 25 July Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster MW and online. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website.

When Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter leads his side out at Molineux on Thursday night, he will do so amid an unusual set of circumstances.

Even the most die-hard fan will accept that the side that finished fourth in last season's Irish League are highly unlikely to defeat Wolves over two legs in Europe.

Indeed even Baxter, in his 15th year at the helm of the north Belfast side following two stints as a player, acknowledges that a 3-0 Wolves win on Thursday would constitute a fairly good night's work for his side.

All this begs the question of how Crusaders should approach a game in which their success will not be defined by the result.

The challenge, says Baxter, is to acknowledge the magnitude of the occasion without becoming overawed by it.

"It will be a fabulous experience for everyone," he says.

"Playing at a Premier League ground is the stuff of dreams.

"But it's important to make sure that we don't get sucked into the feeling that we are tourists walking into their ground".

Crusaders defeat Torshavn
The Crues defeated Faroese side Torshavn earlier this month to set up the tie with Wolves

For Wolves, a 29 year wait for a European tie means the opposition become almost irrelevant in what is a significant moment in the current era of the club.

That the near 32,000 capacity stadium has sold out gives an indication of how highly anticipated this tie is.

"The test for us is staying in this game as long as we can," says Baxter.

"We are hoping to extend the tie and maybe going down a couple of goals won't be the end of the world. You don't want to get thrashed.

"At this moment in time I am just trying to make sure we are mentally prepared.

"We just have to work through chunks of the game at a time, 10 or 15 minute spells."

Wolves
Last season Wolves secured European football for the first time since 1980

A week after Molineux the sides will meet again in the rather more intimate setting of Seaview, on Belfast's Shore Road.

While undoubtedly exciting, hosting a Premier League team at a stadium that seats just over 3,000 is not without its logistical difficulties.

Even with 1,200 temporary seats being installed, demand for tickets far has outweighed the supply.

"Ticket sales have been phenomenal, queues have been out the door," Baxter says.

"We had a huge request for tickets from Wolves which we couldn't fulfil and that sums up how big the tie is".

"All this is exciting stuff and great great problems to have.

"Our staff were at the ground yesterday scratching their heads around a lot of stuff and I told them these were good things to be worrying about".

While Wolves will be hoping the tie is just the start of a prolonged stay in European competition, Crusaders go into the encounter well aware that, barring a nearly unthinkable upset, their continental campaign will be over in two weeks.

That, however, is almost completely irrelevant to the Crues for whom their tie against Wolves is, in many ways, the most significant moment in their recent history.

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