Flamboyant FC Metalist Kharkiv's encounter with miserly Olympiacos FC in the round of 16 looks like a clash of footballing cultures, yet the Ukrainian side’s naturalised Brazilian midfielder Edmar feels there could be goals at both ends.
With 23 goals since the start of the group stage, Metalist are the UEFA Europa League's top scorers, whereas Thursday's first-leg visitors have been more measured – winning their last four European games, three of them by 1-0. Edmar, however, knows Olympiacos have more sparkle than the scorelines suggest. "Olympiacos are not a negative team," the 31-year-old told UEFA.com. "I think the game will be open and, without a doubt, very interesting."
Edmar got the only goal late on when the clubs – led by current coaches Myron Markevich and Ernesto Valverde – met in the 2008/09 group stage, and knows the Greek Super League champions are tough opponents. "They have a Spanish coach and lots of players who like to play a passing game and go forward in numbers," he explained. "So I guess we'll have some space for our attacks and counterattacks.
We score a lot, they concede very rarely, so it will be an intriguing contest," said Edmar, who has played in Ukraine – for SC Tavriya Simferopol and then Metalist – since 2003 and is now a Ukrainian citizen, winning his first international cap in a friendly against Sweden last August. "Olympiacos are a quality side but we have faith in ourselves, and remember that we defeated them not so long ago."
The Ukrainian Premier-Liha season resumed at the weekend, with Metalist taking 95 minutes to finally wear down obstinate FC Obolon Kyiv – a reflection, perhaps, of a perceived difficulty in overcoming defensive teams. Edmar sat out that 1-0 home win, yet sees no reason for his side to change their tactical tack for Olympiacos.
"Myron Markevich always tells us to play our way," he said. "
Yes, it's very important to make adjustments for your opponents, but if you have big goals you need to develop your own style and stick to it. We have ours, and yes, sometimes it's difficult when you meet a team who defend deep, but we showed our mental strength [against Obolon] and got the points."
A strong mindset will be crucial, particularly with Metalist somewhat shackled by a long domestic winter break. "We are getting fitter every day," said Edmar, who reckons they are playing at 80–90% of their ability. "We can't keep up the same rhythm as before the break or press as intensely, but we'll try to compensate for that with motivation and commitment. We didn't set any targets for this competition. We just want to win every game."
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