Having overcome Bayer 04 Leverkusen to reach the UEFA Cup group stage, PFC CSKA Sofia coach Miodrag Ješić is gunning for Hamburger SV tonight.
With 1-0 wins in both legs against Leverkusen, the coach is hoping to get CSKA's Group A campaign off to a good start with a home win against another Bundesliga side - and he is taking heart from Hamburg's 1-0 weekend defeat by VfL Wolfsburg, their first of the season.
"They are the surprise package in the Bundesliga this season and were unbeaten until Saturday," Ješić told uefa.com. "Hamburg are a very strong side but their game against Wolfsburg showed they can be beaten. We expect a tough game but we hope to play another good match and get another good result."
The Serbo-Montenegrin trainer led CSKA to their 30th Bulgarian title last term, and they have been in daunting form this season. They top the table with seven wins and a draw from eight matches, including a 7-0 hammering of PFC Beroe Stara Zagora 7-0 last Saturday.
'One bad half'
"The players are doing what we expect of them," Ješić told uefa.com. "They have the quality to play this way. During the whole league campaign we have played badly only in the second half of the derby against [PFC] Levski Sofia [a 1-1 draw]. I regret this but it was only one bad half in eight games.
"The atmosphere at the club ahead of the game is great and I am very happy," continued the coach. "The only troubles we have are injuries to our key players, defender Radoslav Zabavník and forward Velizar Dimitrov, but we will do our best to get them ready for Thursday."
In six European ties this season, including an aggregate defeat by European champions Liverpool FC in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, CSKA have kept five clean sheets. "We would like to keep doing that," said Ješić. "However, it is easier said than done."
However, despite the good defensive record, it is CSKA's midfield - containing the talents of Mourad Hdiouad, Emil Gargorov, Hristo Yanev, Yordan Todorov and new signing Sergej Jakirović - that will be their most potent weapon against Hamburg.
The supporters at the Balgarska Armia stadium will also do their bit. "Our fans are the greatest in the Balkans," said Ješić. "They support us in a magnificent way and I think the players are repaying them with good performances and good results."
With trips to SK Slavia Praha and AS Monaco FC to come, either side of a home game against Viking FK, CSKA could do with getting their Group A campaign off to a flying start, but qualification for the knockout rounds remains the target.
"All our rivals have a chance but only time will tell what will happen," the coach concluded. "But we have the ambition to finish in the top three and go through."
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