A European Champion Clubs' Cup winner with FK Crvena Zvezda, Ljupko Petrović is looking to end a nightmare run at Serbia's OFK Beograd.
Now 61, Petrović is one of Serbia's most famous coaches, having sealed his place in footballing folklore by leading Crvena Zvezda to success in Europe's top club competition in 1990/91, beating Olympique de Marseille on penalties in the final. He has also coached NK Osijek, FK Vojvodina and FK Rad in the former Yugoslavia as well as the likes of RCD Espanyol, Olympiacos CFP and PFC Levski Sofia abroad.
At the end of March, he was hired to replace Branko Vukašinović at OFK, who have not won a game since 3 November 2007 and are hurtling towards the relegation places. "I cannot refuse my friends, and all of OFK's top officials have been friends for a long time and they are having it tough," he said. "I decided to help them and OFK."
OFK are certainly in need of assistance, and while Saturday's 1-1 draw against FK Čukarički was no disaster, Petrović knows his players need a lift. "At the moment, my players are under a lot of pressure," he said, and added: "We want to stay in the elite and to not replay the situation from back in 1979 when OFK ended up being relegated."
While league results have been poor, leaving OFK ninth in the 12-team table, the Serbian Cup has been kinder, with Petrović's side meeting second division FK Zemun in the semi-final on 16 April. "If we get to the final we will play Crvena Zvezda or [FK] Partizan, but that will be much easier for us - they will be favorites and we can wait our chance, maybe even take it to a shoot-out," said Petrović. "I have been lucky in my career with penalties, now I want another success."
A cup triumph would offer a UEFA Cup place too, and with talks being held over a possible extension beyond the end of this season, Petrović may yet find himself competing in Europe again, albeit with a more modest club. "It is much easier to work in big club," he admitted, but added: "Here, I am testing myself and my abilities, I am really doing everything. So, if we are successful, I can be even more satisfied."
Elswhere in Serbia, Ljubinko Drulović has replaced Žarko Soldo as coach of FK Banat Zrenjanin. The former FC Porto, SL Benfica and FK Partizan midfielder and Yugoslavian international has taken up his first coaching role, charged with saving his side from relegation and building a new team for the future.
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