FC Pyunik face daunting opposition in big-spending FC Shakhtar Donetsk tonight but the Armenian champions are taking strength from their country's recent UEFA EURO 2008™ successes.
The Yerevan club won 2-0 on aggregate against Irish representatives Derry City FC in the first qualifying round to set up another UEFA Champions League second qualifying round meeting with Shakhtar having lost 4-1 on aggregate to the Ukrainian giants at the same stage of the 2004/05 competition. However, this time they feel the fates may be on their side.
For tonight's home leg in the Armenian capital coach Armen Gyulbudaghyants hopes his side will take inspiration from the national team's last two competitive results under Ian Porterfield - a 2-1 win in Kazakhstan and a 1-0 defeat of Group A leaders Poland, which prompted prime minister Serzh Sargasyan to perform a spontaneous dance of joy at the Republican Stadium.
"Pyunik aim to play good football no matter what," said Gyulbudaghyants. "Most of our players are part of the national team that proved its strength by beating Kazakhstan and Poland. We're not afraid of Shakhtar. Of course they are strong but at home we need to do everything we can to match them. I expect an attractive match. I hope we can fulfil our potential and surprise them."
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu is aware the Ukrainian side might be in for a choppier ride than they experienced in their previous meeting. "Pyunik have changed a lot," said the Romanian, who celebrated his 62nd birthday on Sunday. "They play a different game now. They are more mobile, tactically more intelligent and physically strong with experienced players."
Gyulbudaghyants referred to Shakhtar as "a team with a capital 'T' - a team of European class" after victory against Derry set up tonight's tie, but Lucescu expects no deference on the pitch, saying: "Some consider Shakhtar to be favourites but in modern football there are no favourites. Any team can spring a surprise. Away from home we will have a very difficult game but we're ready."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.