With the odds stacked against them, Montenegrin First League champions FK Mogren can use their country's national team as inspiration when they take on Bulgarian counterparts PFC Litex Lovech in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
Montenegro have upset the odds in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group G, drawing 0-0 with England at Wembley and, more pertinently for Mogren coach Branislav Milačić, winning 1-0 and drawing 1-1 with Bulgaria. "Our national team show that a team from a small country can do big things," said Milačić ahead of Tuesday's home first leg in Podgorica.
"They are definitely an inspiration for us, yet internationals between Montenegro and Bulgaria have nothing in common with matches between Mogren and Litex. First, no Mogren or Litex players were involved in those games, and second, Litex are a far bigger and stronger team than Mogren."
Milačić's side might have been more formidable but for the departure of key players Petar Grbić, to Olympiacos FC, and Marko Ćetković, to Jagiellonia Białystok. "Grbić and Ćetković were our star players and we can't find proper replacements," continued the coach. "Four other first-teamers have left – goalkeeper Ivan Janjušević, defenders Ajazdin Nuhi and Vladan Tatar, and midfielder Goran Jovanović. I think we are the only national champions who have lost six senior players before their opening European matches.
"We have signed three players – goalkeeper Nemanja Šćekić, defender Risto Lakić and forward Vladimir Gluščević, who returns after six months with Spanish second division side Albacete [Balompié] – but we are definitely weaker than last season."
Never mind a player exodus, Milačić will also have to overcome a worrying omen if his charges are to progress to the third qualifying round. Litex met 2009/10 Montenegrin champions FK Rudar Pljevlja at this stage last term and duly emerged 5-0 aggregate victors.
"I watched those games and that will be a big help for us," he said. "Litex have since changed coach as well as several players, but I don't think they've changed their style of play. I noticed all four goals Litex scored in the second leg were on the counterattack. They still have quick players and I am sure they will hurt us if we leave them too much space.
"We must be patient in defence and we cannot afford to attack with lots of players. We must be realistic that Litex are better than us. A better team can only lose if their opponent finds a way of blunting their weapons." Can Mogren do that? "We will give Litex a hard time in both matches," Milačić promised. "I hope they underestimate us or have off-days in both legs and that we will be ready to take any gifts from them."
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