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Champions weigh up play-off opposition

Published: Friday 5 August 2011, 16.57CET
The ten domestic titleholders in the champions route gave their reaction to a testing play-off draw, knowing that they are just two matches away from a group stage appearance.
Champions weigh up play-off opposition
Coach Robert Maaskant is confident he can guide Wisła to the group stage ©Cyfrasport
Published: Friday 5 August 2011, 16.57CET

Champions weigh up play-off opposition

The ten domestic titleholders in the champions route gave their reaction to a testing play-off draw, knowing that they are just two matches away from a group stage appearance.

Wisła Kraków, FC Viktoria Plzeň and Malmö FF have their sights firmly set on a first UEFA Champions League group stage appearance, with Wisła coach Robert Maaskant confident his side are "experienced enough" to get past APOEL FC. However, Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba rued his team's luck after being drawn against what he described as "perhaps the most difficult opponent", Danish champions FC København.

UEFA.com rounds up the reaction to the five ties in the champions route.

Wisła Kraków v APOEL FC
Robert Maaskant, Wisła
coach
We should not forget that APOEL played in the Champions League two years ago and they had three draws during that campaign. All our possible opponents were difficult, but the draw is not so bad. I will definitely be speaking to Maciej Żurawski, our former player who played in Cyprus and knows their football well. I know it can be hot there but we have players who are used to high temperatures so it does not worry me, nor does the fact we are at home first. My team are experienced enough to play well home and away.

Osman Chávez, Wisła defender
I'm proud of how we played against Litex Lovech in the third qualifying round – we showed we are a good, intelligent team. This has given us confidence about facing APOEL. I don't know them very well, but them being here means they are dangerous. Wisła have been fighting to get into the Champions League for years, a dream we've not realised just yet.

Ivan Jovanovič, APOEL coach
This is obviously a tough draw for us. Wisła have a rich history and tradition in Polish football and are a strong side for anyone [to face]. It is impossible to predict the outcome of the two legs. I didn't have any preference from the teams we could have drawn.

Maccabi Haifa FC v KRC Genk
Yaniv Katan, Maccabi Haifa captain
It is a tough draw against a top European side but we will have to learn all about them and arrive prepared.

Elyaniv Barda, Genk's former Maccabi Haifa striker
This is the one draw I was hoping not to get. I was hoping to meet Haifa at a later stage of the competition but at least this guarantees one of us will be in the group stage. The chances are 50-50 and it will be fun to play in Israel.

NK Dinamo Zagreb v Malmö FF
Krunoslav Jurčić, Dinamo coach
Malmo knocked out Rangers so they must be tough to beat. Their advantage is that they are a club from northern Europe and their season started some time ago, so they are in good shape. That means they will be strong and they also have quality players. I believe in my team but at this moment I can't say we are favourites because I haven't seen enough of Malmö.

Jiloan Hamad, Malmö midfielder
The draw doesn't terrify me. We still have a great chance of reaching our dream. When we're this close we'll fight and run until we drop – we'll do everything to get through. Reaching the Champions League could be a memory for life. It's a boyhood dream.

FC København v FC Viktoria Plzeň
Thomas Kristensen, København midfielder
During a training camp last year we met two really good Czech teams, and two years ago we played Sparta Praha [in the UEFA Europa League group stage]. They seem to have a strong league. It would have been nice to have started away, but if we can keep a clean sheet at home our situation for the second leg will be good.

Pavel Vrba, Plzeň coach
I remember FCK beat Sparta Praha twice two years ago and they played brilliantly. Their squad has changed since but they are still very strong, perhaps the most difficult opponent from today's draw. It's a pity we cannot play at home [the club's stadium is being rebuilt] but I hope our fans will help us at Eden too.

FC BATE Borisov v SK Sturm Graz
Viktor Goncharenko, BATE coach
I think Sturm are at a similar level [to us]. We played a friendly against FK Austria Wien in 2010 and they were a well-organised and physical team. Sturm probably play in a similar manner, with quality set-pieces and a compact defence although we don't know much about them yet.

Vitali Rodionov, BATE forward
All our potential opponents were more or less the same in quality so I didn't have any preference. As far as I remember I have never played against an Austrian team before so it should be a beautiful country to visit. There is no point predicting anything as football has proved many times that nothing is impossible.

Franco Foda, Sturm coach
I tipped us to land FCK or BATE and one of those came up. We know they played in the 2008/09 Champions League group stage but now it is our job to get as much information on them as we can. I rate our chances as 50-50 although it is surely an advantage to play the second leg at home, after a tough first-leg trip.

Last updated: 05/08/11 17.07CET

Related information

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http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/newsid=1656499.html#champions+weigh+play+opposition

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