After losing to Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round last season, FC Dinamo Bucuresti could be forgiven for being wary of English opponents.
However, as they prepare for the first leg of their UEFA Cup first-round tie against Everton FC, coach Ioan Andone shows no fear of his side's Premiership rival. "Everton are not Manchester United, Arsenal [FC] or Chelsea [FC]," he said. "We have to believe in ourselves because we have a chance to qualify.
"Everton are not in such great shape at the moment and we have to take advantage," he added. "It will be important to get through their midfield, because they have big problems in defence. If we don't concede any goals in the first leg, even if we only win 1-0 at home, we will have a chance to qualify."
After FC Steaua Bucuresti, Dinamo are regarded as the biggest power in Romanian football. National champions on 17 occasions and 12-time Romanian Cup winners, Dinamo have been flying in recent years, winning titles in 1999/00, 2001/02 and 2003/04 as well as five of the last six cups.
Many of these successes have been attributed to 45-year-old Andone, who has been coach since 2002. With 55 caps for Romania, including appearances at the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals, he has an exemplary background and support many Romanian coaches could only dream of.
In the cut-throat world of Divizia A, claiming one league championship, three Romanian Cups and a Romanian Super Cup since taking charge is no guarantee of job security, and Andone's post seemed to be on the line as Dinamo struggled to overcome Cyprus's AC Omonia in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round.
The Romanian press and some of the club's shareholders were unimpressed by the 4-3 aggregate win against Omonia, as Dinamo triumphed 3-1 at home then lost 2-1 in Nicosia. However, Dinamo's executive president Ioan Becali backed his trainer, saying: "Andone will be our coach at least until the end of the season."
That statement has given Andone the chance to prepare for the Everton game in peace. Dinamo have shown good form in the league, winning four of their five matches - including a 6-0 home thrashing of FCM Bacau on Sunday - to go second in the table behind Steaua. However, Everton will be a tougher nut to crack.
'We have to score'
"All the goals we scored against Bacau are worth nothing if we do not manage to score against Everton," said forward Claudiu Niculescu, whose free-kicks have led to many of Dinamo's goals. "This is the most important thing. We have to score."
That task will be made easier by the presence of Niculescu's strike partner, Romanian Under-21 international Ianis Zicu. The pair have four goals apiece already this term, and will provide much of the attacking momentum against Everton.
Dinamo have other strengths too, boasting internationals Gabriel Tamas and Florentin Petre, U21 regulars Cosmin Moti and Mihaita Plesan, and experienced and talented potential match-winners in Florin Bratu, Stefan Grigorie and Vlad Munteanu.
Since reaching the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup semi-finals in 1990, Dinamo have had little to cheer in Europe, so making the UEFA Cup group stage would be a massive achievement. Victory against Everton is a tall order for Andone's men, but crucially, not impossible.
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