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Dundalk to take on high-calibre opposition during Spanish training camp

The League of Ireland Premier Division champions are preparing for the start of another title defence.

DUNDALK WILL FACE a couple of stern examinations of their 2020 credentials this week after returning to Spain for another pre-season training camp.

The Lilywhites are scheduled to defend the President’s Cup against Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park on 9 February, before the champions welcome Derry City to the same venue five days later for their opening League of Ireland Premier Division fixture.

vinny-perth Dundalk boss Vinny Perth. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After their travel plans were disrupted by the weather, Vinny Perth’s squad touched down on Spanish soil yesterday, with the club confirming this afternoon that they’ll take on Romanian champions CFR Cluj and Russian giants CSKA Moscow over the coming days.

Dundalk played their first pre-season friendly on Friday night, as new signings Darragh Leahy, Greg Sloggett and Will Patching all featured in a 7-1 win against UCD.

Perth believes that while the games against Cluj and CSKA Moscow will benefit his side for the beginning of the new season, the challenges will also stand them in good stead for their bid to make progress in the Champions League in July.

“I probably went on a personal crusade to get these two friendlies,” he told Dundalk FC’s official website. “It was my own drive to get them. The reason being, we’ll learn something from both games.

“If you asked UCD did they learn anything from the game with us on Friday night, they’ll tell you that they were playing against the next level up and that’s what we’ll be playing against in Spain.

“What excites me is that not only is it a brilliant training week ahead of the first league game against Derry City, but it’s great preparation for the summer.

“Ultimately, the more we play teams at the highest level, the more we’ll be ready and prepared for Europe. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to learn.”

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celtic-v-cfr-cluj-uefa-champions-league-third-qualifying-round-second-leg-celtic-park Cluj manager Dan Petrescu celebrates after his side's win away to Celtic in August. Source: Jane Barlow

With their domestic league currently in its winter break, Cluj have a four-point lead over AFC Astra as they bid to win their third Romanian top-flight title in a row.

Managed by former Chelsea full-back Dan Petrescu, they’re also preparing for a meeting with five-time winners Sevilla in the last 32 of the Europa League.

Cluj advanced by finishing second to Celtic in Group E. Home wins over the Scottish champions and Lazio, as well as two victories against Rennes, sent them through.

Earlier in the season, they eliminated Neil Lennon’s side from the qualifying rounds of the Champions League when a 1-1 draw in the first leg was followed by a 4-3 triumph for the Romanians in Glasgow.

CSKA Moscow currently sit in fourth place in their domestic league. The 13-time Russian champions, who recorded two victories over Real Madrid in the group stages of the Champions League last season, failed to advance to the knockout stages of the Europa League this season after finishing fourth in Group H.

At the Oliva Nova Golf and Beach Resort in Alicante, Dundalk will face Cluj at 3pm on Wednesday, before taking on CSKA Moscow on Friday at 4pm.

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Paul Dollery

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