Spirits are high at FC Rostov as they prepare to take on FC Krasnodar in Thursday's Russian Cup final at the Anji-Arena in Dagestan, with Montenegrin coach Miodrag Božović helping to brighten the mood.
"He has a foreign mentality, which is a big plus for us," defender Vitali Dyakov told UEFA.com as his side chase their first major trophy. "Russian coaches tend to be dour but Miodrag is different. He pokes fun at us and we do the same with him. He can get very angry sometimes too, but the most important thing is his training sessions. Luckily we don't have to run and run – we mostly work with the ball."
Losing finalists in 2003, Rostov are ninth in the Russian Premier League yet have had some great results this season, notably away wins against FC Zenit, FC Rubin Kazan and fifth-placed Krasnodar. "Our squad got a lot stronger last summer – Artem Dzyuba and Jano Ananidze have done so much in attack," Dyakov explained. "For two years in a row we were in the relegation play-off zone and we were determined to prove we could do better."
Dyakov himself has been in fine form, with rumours of a summer move to Zenit, while fellow 25-year-old Dzyuba has shone up front under Božović, the on-loan FC Spartak Moskva forward scoring 17 goals. "He is working hard," Dyakov said. "He leads the team and is scoring a lot more goals than he has in previous seasons. Of course we want him to stay, but Spartak will probably take him back."
Now Dyakov is hoping that – if indeed Dzyuba has to go home to Moscow – he will at least do so with a cup winners' medal, though Krasnodar look like favourites on paper. "Krasnodar play clever, attractive football," Dyakov noted. "They are great with the ball. First of all I would underline their attacking strength. Roman Shirokov and Brazilians Joãozinho, Wanderson and Ari are all very special players."
However, under Božović, Rostov have proved they are no slouches either, and Dyakov has a funny feeling the fates might have a celebration in store for his side. "When people decide on the favourites, the first thing they do is look at the table and that's fair enough: Krasnodar are fifth, we are ninth," he said. "But that's just on paper. We are not going to read anything into that. The final is just one game where anything can happen.
"I haven't had any bigger matches in my career," he added. "Me and every one of our players will do everything to win the final and get to Europe."
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