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Manchester v Baku United: Sam Richardson preview

by Michael Henson

Interim Head Coach Sam Richardson is looking forward to the prospect of an entertaining game against Baku United on Sunday. 
The two sides clash at Belle Vue tomorrow for the second leg of the play-off tie that will see the winner progress into the Grand Final and Richardson is relishing the task ahead. 
"The draw in the first tie means it's all set and clear," he said. "Whoever wins this game goes through so we're excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the challenge." 
The first leg finished 1-1 in London last weekend and the 31-year old felt that it was a fair result after a good contest at the Copperbox Arena. 
Richardson commented: "Last week was pretty cagey, both teams were figuring each other out a lot of the time, especially at the beginning.  
"Both teams had some good openings, but they definitely began to get a hold of the game as it went through into the second half and looked for a second goal, so it was a relief to get the equaliser when we did.  
"Once we got that I felt both teams became more cautious and content with the draw, although we were very close to stealing a win right at the end, which would have been nice." 
As with every game, the Interim Head Coach learned a lot about the opposition during the game and he says he's ready to put that into effect for today's game at Belle Vue. 
"The main thing I took from the game is where they are individually, as we haven't played them since they last won the league and they have an entirely different squad," Richardson remarked. 
"They also did a few things differently to how I'd imagined, but this is one main reason why I didn't overly focus on predicting what they would do so much. 
"Hopefully the players recognise some things themselves and we've tried to highlight a few specific details to them in training and will revisit them pre-match." 
He continued: "I expect them to stick to their philosophy and principles, knowing vaguely how Rob (Ursell) sees the game and seeing them play last week gives me good reason, although we've been preparing for an adjustment they may make too. 
"We definitely need to be more switched on and aggressive defensively and cut out the lapses in concentration that gave them a lot of their clearer chances." 
Despite the young squad that Manchester have compared to Baku, Richardson is confident ahead of the fixture and knows that his side is capable of producing the result they want. 
Richardson said: "I'm confident in the squad and the players we have - the mix of experience, youthfulness and talent we have currently and throughout the Club's history has always meant we should compete with whoever we face. 
"Of course we must execute the team plan well and need individuals to step up, perform and contribute to the collective effort, as well as hope for a bit of good fortune in some situations." 
The second leg will be played at Belle Vue, compared to the usual home venue of the National Cycling Centre, and the 31-year old believes the venue might be able to give Manchester a slight advantage. 
He commented: "Playing at Belle Vue does change the game a little bit as the court is not quite as spacious and that may affect their out ball options, which they used a lot in the first game.  
"With it being a tighter and closer environment, the atmosphere should be more tangible and electric, which should hopefully give us an advantage on the day." 
No matter what the result is today, the Club still have the FA Futsal Cup to play for but Richardson is aiming for the stars and wants to complete a double to end the season. 
"The club is on a long journey, which has its highs and lows, peaks and troughs and wins and losses," Richardson said.  
"Overall, there's a great feeling around the club, that we are really kicking on and building, progressing and growing all the time due to the long term strategy and values.  
"A loss would never be the end of the world, that goes in hand with the strategy, but make no mistake we go out to perform at our maximum levels and, if we do that, we should always have a chance of winning and competing for the national title." 

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