Lithuanian champions FK Ekranas travel to Belarus on Tuesday knowing that they can make history by becoming the first club from Lithuania to progress to a UEFA competition group stage.
A scoring draw against FC BATE Borisov would be enough for the Lithuanian champions to progress to the UEFA Champions League play-offs, thereby guaranteeing themselves a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage at the very least.
Ever since his arrival at the club in March veteran defender Ignas Dedura has made a prolonged European campaign his primary motivation, and now the former FC Spartak Moskva man hopes that he can live up to the hype. "The BATE game is definitely the most important match of the season for the players and possibly one of the most crucial in the club's history," said the 33-year-old. "After a 0-0 draw in the first leg there is everything to play for. We have to score an away goal and if we do, I believe we'll go through."
Having come agonisingly close to reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage with Spartak Moskva – after a 2007/08 third qualifying round penalty shoot-out defeat by Celtic FC – Dedura then went on to compete in that season's UEFA Cup group stage. The game on Tuesday will be the defender's 20th appearance in UEFA Champions League qualifying, and the hunger to grace the main stage remains as strong as ever.
"You can't get too much of this tournament," added Dedura, who scored in the second qualifying round second leg against Valletta FC. "
It's very different from domestic competitions and you always get the anticipation and the thrill. UEFA competitions are like a festival for us. It would be great for the club to test itself at a higher level and boost the coefficients for the whole country."
Ekranas president Aušrys Labinas added that although the club have already achieved their minimum target of progressing from the second qualifying round, the players now have new objectives. "For several years now we have planned to get further in Europe and play top-class football all autumn. Maybe our time has come."
The Lithuanian outfit will be without Marko Andjelković for the second leg against BATE, after the Serbian midfielder was sent off in the first leg, captain Dainius Gleveckas is still injured, while Lithuania winger Ramūnas Radavičius is also a doubt after picking up a knock.
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