Maribor confident of shutting out ‘long-ball merchants’

Rodrigo Defendi, left, says the hosts are prepared. Picture: Getty

Rodrigo Defendi, left, says the hosts are prepared. Picture: Getty

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Maribor’s ex-Tottenham Hotspur defender Rodrigo Defendi has branded Aberdeen long-ball merchants ahead of their Europa League showdown tomorrow.

Aberdeen will travel to Slovenia today faced with an uphill task to qualify for the play-off stages after drawing 1-1 in the first leg at Pittodrie last week in the third qualifying round.

Maribor have defeated Celtic, Rangers and Hibs in the past six years and are desperate to add to the Dons to their Scottish hit list.

Aberdeen passed up a host of chances to take a first-leg lead and had to rely on a late leveller by Jonny Hayes.

But Defendi – who had a spell at White Hart Lane under Jacques Santini ten years ago – wasn’t particularly impressed with Aberdeen’s tactics after claiming the Scots resorted to basic Route One football.

He said: “It was a tough match and very intensive. Aberdeen were a physical side. To lose a goal in the last five minutes was very annoying because we played very well. I hope in the next game we can keep a clean sheet because we would qualify then.

“We are not used to playing a team who play high balls into the box all the time, but we trained for that scenario and we were very prepared for how Aberdeen were going to play. So we must be ready again for Aberdeen to play that way again. In fact that was all they did – long balls and long balls and more long balls. We must keep them out again and take our opportunities.

“We knew Aberdeen would play this way, but even though we knew they were going to play high balls into the box, it still wasn’t easy to stop them and they weren’t easy to play against. It’s still a 50/50 game. We have to prepare well for the next game to win. It will be another fight.

“We play at home, this gives us a major advantage. Aberdeen won’t be used to our stadium which will be full. I’m a bit disappointed that we (don’t have) a lead because when you are 1-0 with a few minutes left, you think you are going to win and we should have kept the lead. The game is still very open though.”

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