FC Sheriff have won the Moldovan First Division in 11 out of the past 12 seasons so it is understandable that they begin the defence of their crown against FC Costuleni this evening as overwhelming favourites. However, FC Zimbru Chisinau and FC Dacia Chisinau, who broke Sheriff's hegemony in 2010/11, have run them close on several occasions and are ready to cause a stir.
Moldova's most successful club have had a change of coach since last term with former assistant Milan Milanović now at the helm in place of the outgoing Vitali Rashkevich and the new man in charge wants his side to entertain. "I would like us to play attacking football," said the 49-year-old Serbian, whose team failed to score against FC Milsami Orhei in the Moldovan Super Cup before losing on penalties. "We didn't score because of psychological problems and we are working to solve them."
Sheriff will not have the dependable Vazha Tarkhnishvili to rely on this term after the 40-year-old hung up his boots and the club retired his No5 shirt at the end of last season. The former captain is now working as the club's sporting director but how big an impact his retirement will have remains to be seen with the Chisinau outfits ready to capitalise on any slip up. Igor Dobrovolski's Dacia side will go into their season opener against FC Iskra-Stal on Sunday full of confidence having beaten Slovenian outfit NK Celje 2-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round on Thursday, with a tie against IF Elfsborg next on the European agenda.
Their city rivals Zimbru are also through to the second qualifying round after edging out Bangor City FC 2-1 on aggregate. Club owner Adlan Shishkhanov sacked coach Oleg Bejenar after a goalless draw in the first leg but having reinstated him for the important triumph in the return leg, he is now looking forward to a successful campaign. "We have big plans for the season," said Shishkhanov. "I want the team to play attacking football and not just play it safe. I didn't like the quality we showed against the Welsh team in the first match. If I need to change the coach every month to score the goals I will do it."
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