Anthony Annan has warned his Rosenborg BK team-mates to treat AIK "like a wounded lion" when the Trondheim club host their Nordic rivals in a UEFA Champions League third qualifying round decider on Wednesday holding a 1-0 lead.
With a play-off place at stake, not to mention regional pride, Annan is anticipating a different AIK side and performance from that which rarely troubled the Rosenborg rearguard during last week's first leg in Sweden. Having never featured in the competition proper, however, and with memories fresh of a shock loss to Azerbaijan's FK Qarabağ in last year's UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, the midfielder says the Norwegian Tippeligaen leaders will give everything to ensure they take another step towards a first group stage appearance since 2007/08.
"We have to be wary against AIK," said the Ghanaian international. "They have nothing to lose and will be like a wounded lion – this match is our most important so far this year. Playing in the UEFA Champions League is every player's dream. We are certainly more fired up for European success after our elimination last year."
Annan arrived in Norway in 2007 when he joined IK Start, yet it was not until he moved to Stabæk Fotball 12 months later that he rose to prominence. His combative style in central midfield caught the eye of Rosenborg, who signed the 24-year-old on deadline day in August 2008. Annan has since gone from strength to strength, so much so that he was named their player of the year in the 2009 title-winning campaign.
Having made his mark in Norway, Annan showcased his talents on the grandest stage this summer – the FIFA World Cup. The former Accra Hearts of Oak SC man had been expecting to travel to South Africa as a squad player yet ended up playing a key role with Michael Essien ruled out of proceedings through injury. Annan did not waste the opportunity, featuring in all five matches as the Black Stars lost to Uruguay on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Interest from the continent's bigger clubs was thought likely to follow but, for now, Annan is more than happy to help further Rosenborg's European claims. "I am, of course, fully committed to the Rosenborg cause, but no one would say no if a club like Manchester United or Chelsea came calling," he said. If Rosenborg can hold their nerve on Wednesday, then Annan and Co will be one tie away from welcoming such names to the Lerkendal.
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