FC Levadia Tallinn may have only just sneaked victory in San Marino last week but they believe the first-leg 1-0 defeat of SP La Fiorita could set them up nicely for a UEFA Champions League run.
A goal from Heiko Tamm three minutes into added time ended La Fiorita's hopes of avoiding defeat in Europe for the first time and left Levadia well-placed to go through in Estonia on Tuesday to a plum second qualifying round tie with AC Sparta Praha. Coach Marko Kristal told UEFA.com: "We only managed to break through in the last seconds, but this goal took the pressure off us. I am sure that we won't have any problems in the second match."
Levadia were severely depleted last week, partly by a long injury list, with skilful Egyptian Omar Elhussieny missing and both forward Artur Rätter and winger Dmitri Kruglov not expected to be available until the autumn. Lithuanian striker Arsenij Buinickij, meanwhile, left Levadia for Iceland's KA Akureyri in the spring.
"Elhussieny could have made our life easier in the first match, but now he is ready to play and probably you will see him on the pitch tomorrow," Kristal said. "Meanwhile, [top scorer] Vladislav Ivanov suffered a slight injury and I'm not sure if we can use him."
That means some tactical changes, as Levadia aim to move one step closer to matching their 2009/10 run to the third qualifying round and UEFA Europa League play-offs, or the 2006/07 UEFA Cup proper after beating FC Twente.
Igor Subbotin, a right midfielder or defender, is one player who has shone in a new role. "Recently I have asked him to play in attack," Kristal said. "It's because of our problems up front. He has done well and is proving that he can become the real leader of the group." With 13 goals in 16 league matches this season, Subbotin is only one shy of Ivanov's total.
Kristal, whose side currently trail FC Flora Tallinn by two points in the Estonian title race, knows that despite his attacking injuries, he can always rely on goalkeeper Roman Smishko. Never before had a keeper gone more than 1,000 minutes without conceding in an Estonian top-flight goal; Smishko is currently up to 1,166 after Saturday's 2-0 win at Paide Linnameeskond, not including his clean sheet in San Marino last week.
Therefore, Levadia need not fear Sparta – but first they need to finish off La Fiorita, who hope to have their nation's highest-profile player, Andy Selva, fit after a first-leg injury. "We will try to take advantage of set pieces and to take the game into extra time," Selva said.
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