Aleksandr Pavlenko has called on FC Spartak Moskva fans to "live in hope" as his side look to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit at home to Olympique de Marseille.
Aleksandr Pavlenko has called on FC Spartak Moskva fans to "live in hope" as his side look to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Olympique de Marseille.
Back at Spartak after a year on loan with second division FC Shinnik Yaroslavl, the 23-year-old Pavlenko – seen by many as a future replacement for the iconic Yegor Titov – has revenge in mind, telling uefa.com: "The game at the Vélodrome is in the past and we have to live the future. We analysed the match in France and we forgot it right away. Now we will be looking for revenge at the Luzhniki."
Having been caught cold in Marseille, in a match played deep into Russia's inter-season break, Pavlenko hopes the artificial pitch at the Luzhniki – and the Moscow winter – will help freeze Marseille's ambitions, saying: "I hope both the pitch and the weather will help. We are more used to it than the French, who don't like the cold, but I also hope to get some support from our fans at the Luzhniki. I hope they won't leave the team behind in a difficult situation."
Spartak will need to score at least three goals to win the tie, but Pavlenko is not too daunted. "If you don't believe in yourself you might as well not go on to the pitch," he said. "Spartak have 90 minutes to perform a footballing miracle. Of course we realise Marseille are in great shape and that scoring three will be extremely difficult, but we need to strive for victory. Miracles happen in football and we have to live in hope."
Meanwhile, visiting coach Erik Gerets is sure his Marseille side will not take their foot off the pedal in the second leg in Russia, promising that any players who do not show stomach for the fight at the Luzhniki will find themselves in his bad books. "Players who do not show enough motivation for the game in Moscow will be on the bench in the next game," the Belgian said. "In the first 25 minutes of the first leg we had a hard time. It won't be an easy game."