AEK Athens FC coach Manuel Jiménez is ready for an all-out battle at home against FC Zenit St Petersburg, one that he hopes will supply a Hollywood finish to his side's UEFA Europa League Group G campaign.
The Spaniard's side need only a draw to be certain of a place in the last 32, althoughthe former Sevilla FC player and coach is hoping for victory, joking that watching a famous Russell Crowe action film had helped give him a boost. "I saw the Gladiator movie yesterday and that will motivate us," the 46-year-old said with a smile.
Zenit are already through as group winners and Jiménez believes AEK can end the Russian champions' perfect record in the section so far. "Zenit are playing in the Europa League but they could easily be in the Champions League," he said. "However, I believe that our passion tomorrow can counteract their strengths."
Jiménez feels that pure enthusiasm can work in his side's favour. "This game has to be a celebration for the fans who come to support us," he explained, and dismissed any suggestion AEK might play for a share of the spoils, adding: "I've been involved in football for 35 years and I don't know how someone can play for a draw. We are out to win."
Centre-back Kostas Manolas may not have been watching any films, but he too was confident as his side prepared for their decisive encounter. "It is a very important game against a great team," he said. "We want to win, even though a draw would be enough. We will be focused and serious, and I believe we will get what we want."
Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti, however, is keen to deny AEK, and hinted that his team's skills would make them dangerous opponents, regardless of how little they have at stake. "There are two ways to win," said the Italian. "On the one hand, you can hope to be lucky, but the second way is to win through technique and tactics. I prefer the latter."
Portuguese central defender Bruno Alves played at AEK on loan in 2004/05, but vowed to put any personal feelings aside on Thursday. "A lot of people helped me at AEK but I'm a professional," he said. "We had some time off in Russia but we took full advantage and are ready to work hard. I expect a win; there is no other result in my mind."
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