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Long: We're In It To Win It

Defender determined to try and extend European run

29 August 2018

Kevin Long is adamant the Clarets don’t want their European tour to end.

Burnley go into the second leg of their Europa League play-off against Olympiakos on Thursday night 3-1 down after the first meeting in Greece.

Sean Dyche’s side then faces Manchester United at Turf Moor on Sunday still looking for a first Premier League win of the season.

But Long insists the desire to progress to the group stages of a first European campaign in 51 years is just as strong as at the start of the run in Aberdeen at the end of July.

“It's been enjoyable. I've been speaking to all the lads and everyone has been saying the same thing,” said Long, who has played in the last three European ties.

“We've been enjoying the journey so far, but we want to get to the group stages.

“We don't want it to end so we know the task that's ahead of us tomorrow and we want to win the game.

“We've visited big cities, played big teams in different stadiums. Everyone's been enjoying it and it's something that we want to continue.

“We're playing in Europe and it was only a couple of seasons ago that we were playing in the Championship.

“We're within touching distance of making the group stages of a European competition, it's a fantastic achievement and an opportunity we don't want to let slip.”

The Clarets will have to produce another special Turf Moor night to overcome the multiple Greek champions - veterans of European competition but traditionally not the best of travellers - if they are to back up their extra-time wins over Aberdeen and Istanbul Basaksehir in the last two rounds.

But after scoring an away goal and not conceding again after Ben Gibson’s dismissal coincided with a third Olympiakos goal from the penalty spot in Athens, Long believes the tie is not out of reach.

“We know what we have to do,” added the Ireland international. “Hopefully we can score an early goal, finish with a 2-0 or a 3-1 and take it in to extra-time.

“We want to do that. We want to win the game. We can take the shackles off a little bit because we need to attack and score goals and that's what we're going to try and do.”

Dyche’s squad – missing a couple of key men through injury – have faced a substantial workload already this season, with Thursday night’s game their ninth in five weeks since kicking off in the north of Scotland.

The first three domestic league games have yielded just one point but Long does not believe the impact of the European fixtures has been a contributing factor and would not have it any other way.

“At the start they've helped us build in to the season,” he said. “We felt a bit sharper and we had a good opening game against Southampton without scoring goals.

“Against Watford we start sloppily, went on to play really well but then got sucker-punched with two goals.

“I think Fulham has been the only game where we've let ourselves down. I don't think the games in Europe have influenced it too much in the Premier League.

“It's obviously a lot of fixtures if it continues, but we want to try and stay in the competition and win every game.”

Gibson’s red card in Athens rules the Clarets’ defender out of the second leg, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Steven Defour and Robbie Brady are also missing through injury.

Gudmundsson’s hamstring strain sustained at Fulham last Sunday has also forced the winger to withdraw from Iceland’s squad for their upcoming UEFA Nations League fixtures against Switzerland and Belgium.

And Brady will not be with the Ireland squad for their game against Wales, in the same competition, and a friendly with Poland as he looks to get up to full match fitness with the Clarets.

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