After returning from a sunshine break in Mallorca, Kevin Hatchard's treating us to a UEL qualifier in Northern Ireland.
"Zurich have lost their title-winning coach and their top scorer, and they are in poor form."
Back Linfield +1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.9210/11
Hosts can cause an upset
Linfield v Zurich
Thursday 04 August, 19:45
Even though Qarabag didn't provide the win over Ferencvaros that Al predicted last night, Mr Dudman still did a fine job in my absence, so the next breakfast at Mani and Nick's is on me. I have returned from the Balearics a little fatter and a little more pink, but I'm raring to go.
We'll kick off the rest of the week in Northern Ireland, because Linfield are up against Swiss champions Zurich in the Europa League qualifiers, and I think they can at least find the net.
Zurich were shock winners of the Swiss Super League last term, finishing above traditional giants like Young Boys of Berne and FC Basel. However, coach Andre Breitenreiter has returned to his native Germany to coach Hoffenheim, top scorer Assan Ceesay went to Lecce and the team has made a poor start to the campaign. They lost after extra time to Azerbaijani side Qarabag in the Champions League qualifiers, and they have collected a solitary point from the first three games of their title defence. Last month they were smashed 4-0 at Young Boys. New coach Franco Foda was deeply unpopular as Austria boss, and he's heading that way in Zurich.
Linfield secured a famous 1-0 win over Bodo Glimt in the UCL qualifiers, but then lost 8-0 in Norway. While David Healy's champions were out of their depth in that second leg, they will take solace from the first-leg display, and they haven't lost a home game in the league since May 2021. Healy won't take too many risks here, and he'll doubtless be happy to dig in and cede possession.
I think Linfield can keep this tight against out-of-form opponents, so I'll give the hosts a one-goal start on the Asian Handicap here at 1.9210/11. We only lose if Linfield are beaten by two goals or more.