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FK Partizan coach Lothar Matthäus is urging his players to keep their composure in their final UEFA Champions League Group F game against Olympique de Marseille on Tuesday.
With Real Madrid CF and FC Porto secure in the first two positions in the group, the two sides meet in Belgrade with third place – and entry to the UEFA Cup third round - at stake. Marseille are currently a point above Partizan, meaning only victory will suffice for Matthäus's men.
"I am not happy that we will not be playing for the right to stay in the Champions League," said the Partizan coach. "But I recognise that we entered this tournament as underdogs and I cannot be angry."
'Players must learn'
Although the Serbo-Montenegrin champions are yet to win a match in the competition, Matthäus is confident they can make history on Matchday 6, saying: "This task is not impossible and I will ask my players to keep a cool head, to stay motivated and not be afraid.
We have made a lot of mistakes in previous games, especially in Marseille and Porto. This is partially due to inexperience, but the players need to learn."
Nigerian defender Taribo West is fit again after receiving treatment for a knee injury in Germany, but he is unlikely to be considered for selection for disciplinary reasons. "I am not counting on him," said Matthäus, whose goalkeeper Ivica Kralj is struggling with a knee problem while Polish defender Tomasz Rzasa is doubtful with a thigh strain.
'Fight like lions'
Marseille were 3-0 winners in the reverse fixture on Matchday 2, and Partizan captain Saša Ilic admitted the opportunity for revenge was a motivating factor. "In Marseille I missed two great chances when the score was 0-0 and felt responsible for our defeat," said the midfield player. "This will be my extra motivation. With the help of our fans we can beat the French team and stay in Europe. They will give us the strength to fight like lions."
Marseille coach Alain Perrin, whose side have lost their last three Champions League games, admitted avoiding defeat was his first priority. "We've come here to qualify for the UEFA Cup, and that means not losing," he said. "You have bad runs in football, but I believe we have the power to fulfil our duty and continue in European competition."
'Happy with draw'
Striker Didier Drogba echoed his coach's views, saying: "
We won't be chasing victory at any cost, as we would be quite happy with a draw, but I think we will win. We have to be careful in defence, and we've heard a lot about the atmosphere in Belgrade, but I believe we can achieve a good result, even if we have not played our best recently."
Perrin, who is without striker Steve Marlet and midfield player Fabio Celestini through injury, added that the opening exchanges could prove crucial. "Partizan will attack from the start," he said, "so we must hold firm and hit them on the counterattack. If they don't score, they will get nervous, and we know a draw is good enough. I expect a hard, competitive match and Marseille to win."
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