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Bajevic plots Deportivo downfall

Published: Wednesday 17 September 2003, 9.00CET
Draw specialists last season, AEK Athens FC want a first-night victory against RC Deportivo La Coruña.

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Published: Wednesday 17 September 2003, 9.00CET

Bajevic plots Deportivo downfall

Draw specialists last season, AEK Athens FC want a first-night victory against RC Deportivo La Coruña.

AEK Athens FC drew all six UEFA Champions League group stage matches last season, but will be out for a win on Wednesday in their Group C opener against Spanish league leaders RC Deportivo La Coruña.

Experience counts
AEK returned to the competition last term after an eight-year absence, and their Serbian coach Dusan Bajevic hopes the experience will boost his team's chances this time around. "We have the experience and it can help us do better this year," he said.

Key injuries
However, his players' efforts will be hampered by the absence through injury of defenders Mihalis Kapsis, Mihalis Kasapis and the Ghanaian Kofi Amponsah, while former Internazionale FC midfield player Grigorios Georgatos is doubtful. "It's a difficult situation and I still don't know which players will be available for the match," admitted Bajevic.

Bajevic belief
But rather than bemoan his luck, Bajevic stressed his belief that his side would make a winning start on home soil. "La Coruña may be the favourites on paper but we are aiming to win," he said. "I believe in the abilities of my players."

Okkas in action
Champions League debutant Yiannis Okkas, who should provide extra firepower up front alongside the experienced Serbo-Montenegrin Ilija Ivic, echoed his coach's sentiments. "We believe we can win and the fact [Deportivo] see themselves as favourites may be a disadvantage to them," said Okkas.

Qualifying win
Having battled past Grasshopper-Club in the qualifying round, AEK go into the match on the back of a 2-2 draw at Iraklis FC on Saturday, which ended a 14-game winning streak in the league. The result saw the Athens club drop to second place in the Alpha Ethniki, two points behind Panathinaikos FC.

Athenian challenge
Deportivo, for their part, are enjoying a brilliant run in the Primera División, brushing aside Sevilla FC on Sunday to maintain their 100 per cent record after three rounds. However, striker Alberto Luque has urged his team-mates to expect a tough test in Athens, having played in RCD Mallorca's 2-0 defeat by Panathinaikos at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium - Wednesday night's venue - two years ago.

Tense atmosphere
"We are going to have to suffer," he said. "We had a chance of winning [in Athens] with Mallorca and all I can say is that it was one of the hardest games of my life. The crowd are right on top of you and it seems as if anything goes."

Irureta hopes
With centre-forward Walter Pandiani back in form after settling his differences with coach Javier Irureta, Deportivo are not lacking in potential goalscorers. Hence the trainer's confidence that his side, qualifying winners against Rosenborg BK, can take another positive result back to Spain.

Strong opponents
"We are confident but with a measure of caution because we know that this is just the beginning," he said. "What we want to do is to start the competition well, but we know AEK are not going to give us anything. They are a mature side - tough and strong."

Last updated: 17/09/03 12.09CET