Only victory will be enough if either FC Artmedia or FC Porto are to extend their run in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League. Both teams enter the Matchday 6 encounter in Bratislava needing three points to oust Rangers FC from second place in a tightly-contested Group H.
The equations are clear. If Rangers win at home to section winners FC Internazionale Milano, they will progress. However, a Rangers draw or defeat combined with an Artmedia victory at the Tehelné Pole stadium would send the locals through. For Porto, meanwhile, the position is even starker – the 2004 European champions must win and pray that Rangers lose.
Artmedia coach Vladimír Weiss underlined the urgency of the situation, saying: "We are going for the win as we want to continue in the competition. However, it doesn't just depend on us, but also the game in Glasgow." Making their task even harder is the quality of the opposition, according to the Slovakian champions' coach who said: "Porto will put us under pressure. I think they play the best and most attacking football in our group, and I am surprised they are bottom of the table. I am sure they will attack us."
The key for Artmedia – 7-1 conquerors of AŠK Inter Bratislava last week – will therefore be to balance the visitors' "technical skills" with sheer "heart and courage". Another leveller could be the conditions. Goalkeeper Juraj Čobej, part of a full strength 23-man squad that includes fit-again midfielder Lukáš Hartig, said: "We cannot expect perfect conditions in December in Bratislava. I would rather play on a muddy pitch than a frozen one, but we'll have to see what the weather brings."
'Keep our concentration'
Porto defender Ricardo Costa believes the trip to Slovakia presents more pressing problems than the meteorological. "Artmedia are a strong team who like to counterattack and they are good at it, so we have to keep our concentration throughout the 90 minutes," he warned.
The Portuguese club, restored to the top of their domestic Liga following Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Sporting Clube de Portugal, know too well the threat posed by Artmedia's breakaways. Porto dominated the sides' Matchday 2 meeting yet still lost 3-2. "We were the better team in that game, but it is goals that are decisive," visiting coach Co Adriaanse said. "If we play like we did at the Dragão, we will beat Artmedia nine times out of ten."
'We are in trouble'
All Porto need, the Dutchman insisted, is a change of fortune. "
Apart from the defeat at Inter, I believe we have been the better team in all group games. Unfortunately, luck has not been on our side and now we are in trouble. But our aim is to stay in European competition this season, as this is very important for our young players. This means we would even settle for the UEFA Cup."
Porto include 19-year-old forward Ivanildo Cassamá, who could spring from the bench for his third seasonal appearance, but not the recovering Tomislav Šokota and Bruno Moraes, in their squad. Adriaanse, it seems, is leaving nothing to chance. "Last week I was here to see Artmedia win impressively against AŠK Inter in their local derby. It is always good to see your opponent live and it gives me an opportunity to prepare my team 100 per cent."
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