RSC Anderlecht striker Milan Jovanović has promised to up the ante as the Belgian champions look to overturn a 1-0 deficit against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday in their "most important game of the season."
"Our tempo in the first leg was too slow and as a team they did much better than us," admitted the Serbian international. "I was very impressed and surprised with how AZ attacked but Anderlecht are much stronger at home, with 30,000 people behind us. The stadium should be full and that is a huge motivation."
The prospect of a UEFA Europa League round of 16 berth is motivation enough for the Belgian league leaders and, having been rested for Sunday's 3-1 win against KVC Westerlo, Jovanović is champing at the bit. "I have played a lot of games this season but now I feel fresh and ready to try and score as quickly as possible.
"AZ are favourites, though that can quickly change.
If it remains 0-0 for a while we just have to be patient, even if we have to score a minimum of three goals, I think, to be safe. We have scored three or more a lot this season." Indeed, Sunday was the 15th game this term that Ariël Jacobs' side have reached the three-goal mark.
AZ's surprise 3-0 weekend defeat at FC Utrecht brings further hope, although Jacobs dismissed it as "something that can happen to anyone". AZ counterpart Gertjan Verbeek certainly hopes so, saying that he could see things were mentally awry within two minutes of the kick-off on Sunday. This meeting with Anderlecht offers the chance for immediate redemption.
"I hope the squad responds," said Verbeek. "Anderlecht won all their home games in the group stage but the same was true away and we were good enough to end that record; we can do the same here.
We have not been great away from home in Europe this season but we have always done enough to qualify."
Indeed, any of the five draws and even the 2-1 defeat by Aalesunds FK they suffered in the play-offs would suffice at Anderlecht, who could not muster a reply to Adam Maher's first-half goal last week. Maarten Martens' recovery from a knock that forced him off at half-time against Utrecht will help; the home side will have to contend without Guillermo Molins, Lukáš Mareček, Behrang Safari and Tom De Sutter through injuries.
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