FC Paços de Ferreira welcome FC Zenit for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off in Porto on Tuesday night with technical director Costinha hoping his own competition experience will help the debutants realise their dream.
With only a couple of brief campaigns in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League behind them, Paços de Ferreira finished an impressive third in Portugal last season to earn this competition debut. Costinha, a UEFA Champions League winner with FC Porto in 2004, has more European goals to his name than in the whole of his new club's history but has high hopes at his former Estádio do Dragão home despite the experience of Zenit and the injury absence of Rúben Ribeiro, Tony and Tiago Valente.
"Zenit are without a doubt a fantastic team, but we have the ambition to go a long way despite our lack of experience in the squad," said Costinha, who succeeded Porto-bound Paulo Fonseca in June. "We upset the natural normal order of our domestic league to be here. It's 180 minutes where we'll have to give our lives to be in the Champions League. Some of my staff and I have gone a long way in this competition [as players] so we will help them as much as we can.
"Normally, a team which plays for a draw will end up losing, so we won't do that," the former FC Dinamo Moskva player added. "We won't surrender to Zenit just because they have great players and a big budget. One thing is certain – they don't have more desire than us.
"They will certainly be a very strong team with international players who know this competition, but we'll take advantage of the fact that they see us as an inferior club and try to surprise them. This stadium makes us dream. This is a magical moment for everyone at the club and I'm sure the supporters will come to support us."
One of Zenit's star names, Hulk, has been ruled out of his return to his former Porto home after suffering a hamstring injury in Saturday's 3-0 defeat of FC Anji Makhachkala, joining goalkeepers Vyacheslav Malafeev and Yuri Zhevnov, and defenders Domenico Criscito and Luís Neto on the sidelines, though Tomáš Hubočan and Aleksandr Anyukov are available at the back. Zenit are aiming for a fourth group campaign in five seasons and sailed past FC Nordsjælland in the third qualifying round but coach Luciano Spalletti is respectful of their hosts.
"We've seen their last game and we know they're a good team. We know they're carrying the same spirit they had last season so they'll be dangerous," he said. "This is a great opportunity, a great chance to be back in the most prestigious club competition. Not every club has the chance to play in this competition. There are many big clubs who don't get to be here."
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