FC Dinamo Tbilisi and FC Ameri Tbilisi carry the hopes of a nation as they look to keep Georgian interest in Europe alive in their UEFA Cup ties tonight.
With champions FC Olimpi Rustavi falling at the first hurdle in the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round and FC Zestaponi making no impression in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, the two capital sides are the only Umaglesi Liga representatives left in European competition this season, and both are determined to be in the hat as the UEFA Cup draw takes place on Friday.
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners in 1981, Dinamo have by far the best chance of making it to the second qualifying round after a 2-0 win against Liechtenstein's FC Vaduz in the first leg of their tie. That match saw Czech defender Roman Doboš make his debut, but it was the club's newly-signed Gabon internationals who made the biggest impression.
Goalkeeper Didier Ovono made two decisive interventions while fellow countryman Georges Akiremy scored Dinamo's second goal. However, an injury for Doboš and defensive colleague Shota Kashia have given coach Dušan Uhrin cause for concern. "Vaduz are great at home and will field some key players that missed the first leg," said the Czech. "The first minutes will be the hardest ones for us, but we are not going to give away the initiative and play for a draw."
Georgian Cup holders Ameri do not have the luxury of being able to play for a draw after they lost 2-0 in Poland to GKS Belchatów. Coach Georgi Chikhradze said: "The reason for our defeat was the two mistakes we made at set-pieces after the break. We studied Belchatów very well before the match and we should not have made such stupid errors." Ameri had held their own for much of the match but must now dominate on home soil if they are to keep their European dreams alive. "We will try to play fast passing football, keep possession and break down Belchatów's defence with incisive distribution," said Chikhradze.
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