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Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson welcomes underdog tag for Europa League trip

Colraine v Motherwell – UEFA Europa League – Second Qualifying Round – Colraine Football Club
(Image credit: Brian Lawless)

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson believes his players will relish their underdog status in Israel after turning around their season in recent weeks.

Well were bottom of the Scottish Premiership for several weeks after struggling to turn possession into points.

But their 3-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday lifted them to eighth and made it four wins from five games, with the only loss in that run coming at Celtic Park.

Two of those victories have come against Northern Irish opposition in the Europa League to set up a trip to face Hapoel Beer-Sheva in the third qualifying round on Thursday.

Hapoel have reached the group stages twice in the past four seasons and ran Celtic close in the Champions League play-offs before beating Inter Milan home and away in the first of those campaigns.

However, the tactically-astute Robinson is plotting an upset.

“We are under no illusions about the level of opposition and financially they are in a different stratosphere, but that doesn’t always win football matches,” the former Northern Ireland assistant manager said.

“They are a very strong team, and they have strong individuals. They have three players we have identified who can really hurt you.

“But we are going with a game plan. We went to Aberdeen with a game plan that worked very well. We’ll go with a different game plan and there’s a real positive mindset around the club.

“We have quietly gone about our business and picked up results in different ways and shown a real amount of character.

“We are going to need that again over there and we are going to need to stick to our game plan and hope individuals do what they did on Sunday and come to the fore and take their opportunities.

“We are not going with any kind of fear. We are going there quietly thinking we can get a result and why not? What have we got to lose?

“With the quality of player they have got, we will be underdogs. We do well when we are underdogs at times.

“People criticised us early in the season and we got a bit of a mentality to prove everybody wrong.

“Let people think we are underdogs and we will go and give it everything.”

Israel is under a strict lockdown but Robinson dismissed any fears surrounding the risk of coronavirus infection and believes a third trip inside a week can further strengthen team morale.

“The protocols we follow are exactly the same if we went to Belfast or came in here,” he said.

“When we went to Belfast we had a bubble in the hotel that no-one else could come into. The atmosphere was great.

“It was probably the first time in the whole season that we had been able to get the whole team together for a length of time.

“There was an hour or two where they sat and watched the football, they played table tennis.

“You saw the atmosphere building and the boys getting to know each other even more, because it’s been difficult. They sit far apart on the coach, they room in separate rooms, team meetings are 10 minutes and then they separate again.

“Every team will have found it difficult to build the camaraderie but in the context of the real world it’s not that difficult. With what’s going on and people losing their lives, then we have to realise how lucky we are.”