RSC Anderlecht face the threat of falling short once more in their pursuit of a UEFA Champions League place but their coach John van den Brom is calling for cool heads all the same when AEL Limassol FC come to Brussels for Tuesday's play-off return leg.
Though the Cypriot champions hold a 2-1 advantage, Van den Brom said it was essential to play "our normal game" and not panic. "We will build things up carefully and look for the opening goal," he explained. "In European football, you know that when you don't concede at home and score yourselves, you often get far."
Van den Brom admitted that past qualifying losses had left their mark on his squad, notably the defeat on penalties by FK Partizan in 2010/11, which was their fourth failure in as many seasons. "Some of the guys have been here quite a while and have become more experienced and they want to make amends. They're saying, 'That will not happen to us again.'"
For that to occur, they must do something neither Linfield FC nor Partizan managed in previous rounds and score a home goal against AEL – something that is easier said than done, as Van den Brom recognised. "Two-one is an ideal starting position for them as they are capable of defending a lead," he said "They are a defensively very well-organised team."
According to AEL coach Charalampos Christodoulou, this defensive solidity is a big source of confidence, despite his side's lack of experience. "
Our chances are 50-50. We have already proved that we can get good results both at home and outside Cyprus," he said. "We will not adjust to our opponents, we will play our own system."
AEL had never won a European knockout tie before this campaign yet now stand one step away from writing their own surprise story to follow compatriots APOEL FC's recent fairy tale in the UEFA Champions League. While Christodoulou said his club were already "in dreamland", they are eager to keep the dream alive longer. "We are aiming to pull off a miracle on Tuesday. We can do it because we are all one family at this club."
They will have to work their magic without Luciano Bebê (hamstring) and Paulo Sérgio (stomach) although Portuguese midfielder Monteiro is available after a ban. For Anderlecht, meanwhile, Milan Jovanović is absent through suspension but his possible replacement Olexandr Yakovenko warmed up by scoring in Saturday's 1-1 Belgian First League draw at Oud-Heverlee Leuven, where Ronald Vargas returned after ten months out with a knee injury.
Van den Brom is happy with his squad and optimistic that Anderlecht's quality can make the difference. "
If we start trying to match their battling football, like we did in the first match, then we will get into trouble. At home we have the advantage of a good pitch to move the ball around fast." AEL's record suggests the hosts will need to be at their quickest; if not, Brussels should brace itself for a football miracle.
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