On Thursday, 5th of August, Dundalk will face off against Dutch side Vitesse in the third qualification round of the Europa Conference League.
The Lilywhites come into the first leg of the tie in fine fettle.
They’re on a blistering six game unbeaten run in all competitions. Despite, their horrendous start to the current domestic campaign, manager Vinny Perth has settled the ship since returning to the Dundalk hotseat, back in June.
Most recently, they beat Estonia’s Levadia Tallin 4-3 on aggregate. With a last gasp Will Patching goal deciding the contest in the Estonian capital.
On the flip side, what can League of Ireland fans expect to see from Vitesse?
Unlike Dundalk, the Netherlands outfit are coming into this clash somewhat cold.
They’re currently plodding through a hefty pre-season schedule, which has consisted of eight games since the 30th of June.
While nobody can ever look too deeply into friendly results. But, Vitesse have been struggling during the build-up to their 2021/22 Eredivisie season. Only picking up two wins from those eight games, against OFI Crete of Greece, and newly promoted Bundesliga side, Bochum.
‘Vitas’ finished up in fourth place in the Dutch top-flight last season. Earning automatic qualification for the inaugural Europa Conference League competition.
In fairness, Vitesse are a club with a lengthy pedigree in European football, since making their debut in the 1978/79 Intertoto Cup.
They last appeared in the group stages of a major European tournament back in the 2017/18 edition of the Europa League. However, it wasn’t to be, as Vitesse finished bottom of Group K, behind Lazio, Nice and Zulte Waregem of Belgium.
In their formative European years, they also made it to the Round of 16 of the UEFA Cup in 1990/91 and 1992/93 respectively.
Vitesse should be a familiar name to League of Ireland supporters of a certain vintage.
They faced Derry City in their previously mentioned 1990/91 UEFA Cup run, with the Dutch side advancing 1-0 on aggregate in the tournament’s first round.
In a strange flash of déjà vu, the two sides met again in the UEFA Cup first round, during the 1992/93 campaign. Again, Vitesse came out on top, winning the tie 5-1 over two legs.
Vitesse currently find themselves ranked 147th in UEFA’s official ranking system, compared to Dundalk 126th ranking.
52-year-old German, Thomas Letsch is the acting Head Coach at the Eredivisie side. He’s been involved on the coaching staff with notable Austrian clubs, Red Bull Salzburg, and Austria Wien.
He tends to set up his side with a 5-3-2 formation, with full backs like Elazar Dasa and Maximilian Wittek getting forward when the opportunity presents itself.
Vitesse have a reputation for their possession-based play and being defensively when holding a lead. Along with a strong and aggressive backline when defending set-pieces.
Overall, it seems a difficult tie for Dundalk, but with the winner of this clash potentially facing Belgium giants Anderlecht, the draw certainly hasn’t been kind to Vinny Perth’s men.