MŠK Žilina captain Róbert Jež is tipping his improving team to register their first points in the UEFA Champions League against Olympique de Marseille.
Pavel Hapal's men have lost their opening three games in Group F yet they pushed the Ligue 1 outfit hard at Stade Vélodrome a fortnight ago. Indeed, Jež came close to equalising in the latter stages of the 1-0 defeat, forcing a superb save from Steve Mandanda, and the experienced midfielder is hoping to set the record straight on Wednesday.
"We're doing very well in our domestic league and we're improving in the UEFA Champions League," Jež said. "I believe we can surprise the rest of Europe by taking some points from our remaining games."
Acclimatising to life among Europe's elite was always likely to prove tricky for the competition debutants. Runaway leaders in the Slovakian top flight, Žilina extended their unbeaten run to 23 matches by drawing with Dukla Banská Bystrica on Friday, but Jež admits the UEFA Champions League is a big step up.
"These matches are completely different to the league games we play every weekend," explained the Slovakian international. "The teams are much stronger than any sides we play in Slovakia. They play with style and have bigger and better squads."
Nevertheless, after conceding seven goals in their opening matches against Chelsea FC and FC Spartak Moskva, Žilina have tightened up at the back and will be targeting a first clean sheet against the French champions.
"We'll have to be very careful and keep an eye on all the Marseille players," warned Jež. "They're all well known, although Mathieu Valbuena is the one who stood out for me in the first game. He's very skilful and the way he thinks about the game is exceptional."
While a draw would still leave Žilina with a chance of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League, Jež insists the hosts must go for all three points. "We no longer have a choice," the 29-year-old said. "If we don't win then we won't be in a position to contemplate qualifying for the UEFA Europa League or the UEFA Champions League knockout stage. But I don't feel like we're under any more pressure."
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