FK Rabotnicki are hoping a national holiday in F.Y.R. Macedonia will coincide with a famous UEFA Champions League victory.
The country's champions returned from Hungary last week with a 1-1 draw from their first-leg tie against Debreceni VSC, and now seek to complete what would represent arguably the best European result in F.Y.R. Macedonia's history. Having overcome F91 Dudelange, champions of Luxembourg, 1-0 on aggregate in the first qualifying round, Rabotnicki are 90 minutes away from a third qualifying round meeting with French side LOSC Lille Métropole - and the chance of a group-stage berth.
With the match taking place on Iliden Day - a holiday in the former Yugoslav republic - coach Gjorgi Jovanovski is facing something of a dilemma ahead of the second leg; whether to hold out for a 0-0 draw and progress on away goals, or take a risk and go for an outright win. "I don't think we can count on defending to hold what we have," he said. "We have a small advantage but it would be suicide to drop back in defence. We will play like we don't have an advantage. We will try to score, to get the victory, but I must say that they are strong opponents."
Rabotnicki go into the game with defender Metodija Stepanovski suspended and midfielder Ardijan Nuhiji injured, but Jovanovski can take heart from the return of sometime F.Y.R. Macedonian international Stojance Ignatov to his midfield. Meanwhile, Goran Stankovski, whose goal put Rabotnicki briefly ahead in Debrecen, wants to bring the match to a satisfactory conclusion in the minimum time possible. "I would like to decide the tie in 90 minutes," he said. "We must win and take our place in the third qualifying round. We have to be realistic, though. It will be tough and we are going to have to be at our very best."
Indeed, Debrecen are out to spoil the party, even if the Hungarian title-holders have Péter Máté, Bojan Brnović, László Rezes and Ronald Habi absent through injury. "We have analysed the first leg and identified our biggest mistakes," said coach Attila Supka. "I hope we will be able to resolve them."
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