Fresh from winning their first Montenegrin title, FK Rudar Pljevlja are now preparing for a maiden UEFA Champions League campaign with captain Predrag Randjelović looking forward to a "unique opportunity to play at a top level".
Out of the four clubs in Monday's first qualifying round draw, Rudar are the only debutants but Randjelović believes that will be no hindrance to his side's chances. "I am confident we will progress to the next round," the 33-year-old former PFC CSKA Moskva and FC Zenit St. Petersburg striker said. "We have enough quality and experience for that."
It was a hurdle the team they deposed as Montenegrin champions – FK Mogren – cleared comfortably enough last term. Mogren swept aside Hibernians FC 6-0 on aggregate, but it was a different story in the next round as they failed to score while conceding 12 against FC København.
Midfielder Predrag Brnović will certainly be taking nothing for granted, even at the earliest stage of the continent's elite club competition. "Mogren's experience is a warning, a lesson that you cannot experiment in Europe," he said. "I am absolutely convinced nothing similar will happen to us, no matter who we play."
Serious as Brnović is about the task at hand, he also betrays more than a hint of excitement ahead of Rudar's European journey. "
We are going on a big adventure," the 23-year-old said. "I hope we will play the best we can – that's most important. Still, our goal is to get through the first qualifying round and gain the chance to play against a stronger side in the next phase. First of all, though, we must prepare properly for the first challenge."
This will be Rudar's second experience of European competition after a brief foray in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup. That ended in a 4-0 aggregate defeat by AC Omonia and Brnović is sure lessons have been learned since. "This team is much better than three years ago," the former FK Kom player said. "Now we have more experienced players, we've worked together for almost two years and have huge motivation to represent Montenegrin football in the best way."
Rudar won the Montenegrin championship in impressive style, sewing up the title with three games left before going on to complete the domestic double. "These trophies mean a great deal, but if we disappoint in Europe everyone will forget what we did at home," said Brnović, who scored five league goals last season. "We must be mentally prepared, play with confidence, but also with respect for our opponents. We can't make mistakes as at this level you will be punished as we saw with Mogren last year."
The draws for the first two qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League are held at UEFA HQ in Nyon, Switzerland, on Monday from 12.00CET, with UEFA.com streaming them live. The two-legged ties will be played on 13/14 and 20/21 July.
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