The possibility of a third qualifying round meeting with AC Milan is keeping FK Crvena Zvezda on their toes as they welcome Cork City FC to Belgrade this evening.
Crvena Zvezda, the last champions of Serbia and Montenegro before the nation's dissolution, lead 1-0 from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie in the Republic of Ireland, but know it may take more than Dennis Behan's own goal to sink Cork. "We got a good result in Ireland but I am an experienced coach and I know surprises happen in football," said coach Dušan Bajević, who has a full squad available. "I do not want an upset in our second leg and I am preparing my players for victory."
Bajević's Cork counterpart Damien Richardson has yet to concede defeat. "Don't write us off just yet," he said. "We know we have an uphill task but it can be done. The pressure is on them to deliver a result in front of their fans in Belgrade, so if we can keep them quiet for 20 minutes maybe we can do something." Certainly the prospect of facing Milan, who were allowed to keep their UEFA Champions League place following a UEFA Emergency Panel decision today, is a big incentive, but for Richardson, Crvena Zvezda themselves are exciting enough opponents.
"The chance of playing AC Milan is once in a lifetime for these players, but I think the fact Cork City have the opportunity of playing AC Milan and Crvena Zvezda - both former winners of the European [Champion Clubs'] Cup - shows how far this club has come and that we deserve to be in that company," he said. Crvena Zvezda goalkeeper Ivan Randjelović suspects a packed stadium in Belgrade might prove too much for Cork to handle. "I understand the Irish have a chance but we expect 55,000 supporters on Wednesday night and in that situation we are just unbeatable," he said.
However, Bajević is avoiding complacency. "I won't speak about Milan before Thursday," he said. "I am a professional. We have a duty to eliminate Cork, play well and earn the approval of our fans. After that, we can talk about Milan. The same goes for my players."
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