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If R. Standard de Liège captain Steven Defour takes to the field for their UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg against FC Salzburg on Thursday it will be what the midfielder considers a long overdue start to his European season.
Defour was all set to lead Standard into the club's maiden UEFA Champions League group stage campaign when, four days before Matchday 1 in September, he suffered a broken foot in an Eerste Klasse fixture against KV Mechelen. That deprived the Belgian titleholders of their skipper for almost five months until his return in late January in a 3-1 defeat of KV Kortrijk, the beginning of three wins in four matches with the 21-year-old back in the team.
While glad to be back on the pitch, though, Defour is excited by the prospect of leaving domestic duties to one side for the time being. "It's normal to be more motivated when you play in Europe against big clubs like Liverpool than when you face Belgian teams," said Defour, who is approaching a century of league appearances for Standard. "We've already forgotten elimination from the Champions League and now we are thinking about winning this match."
Despite starting Standard's last four matches Defour says he has along way to go before he is back on form. "I am not in the best of shape, I still have a lot of work to do," he continued. "I have been up and down in training but I am getting there. I just want to put some hard work in."
Among the ranks of a Salzburg team who were the only club to win all six matches in the UEFA Europa League group stage is Rabiu Afolabi, a former Standard midfielder. "I spoke with Afolabi," added Defour. "They are a strong club but we will play with all our might to defeat them. It's not an advantage to play at home [first], I don't think it's important. You can always show you are the best, it doesn't matter where the game takes place."
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