"We are Budućnost and we are not afraid of anyone," said Nikola Vukčević as FK Budućnost Podgorica prepare to begin their Montenegrin First League title defence this weekend.
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The Montenegrin First League begins this weekend with FK Budućnost Podgorica looking to become the first team ever to retain their title.
Budućnost's European involvement may already be over following a 2-1 aggregate defeat by WKS Śląsk Wrocław in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, but the title holders start their domestic campaign as definite favourites.
"Our objective is not only to defend our title but to try and win the double," said coach Radisav Dragićević. "It will be very tough as Rudar will be hard to beat, Mogren are much better than last season and Zeta have shown quality in UEFA Europa league qualifying. Also, Čelik and Petrovac have very experienced squads and Mladost have done a good job in the transfer market. This will be a very even and dangerous competition, with a lot of teams who could be dangerous for the favourites."
Budućnost have stuck to last season's winning recipe and are yet to add to their championship-winning squad. There is a new man at the helm, however, with Dragićević stepping into the breach following Miodrag Radulović's departure for Kuwaiti outfit Kazma Sporting Club. Yet to be lured away, though, are the attacking trio of Dragan Bošković, Srđan Radonjić and Admir Adrović, who scored 53 league goals between them last term.
"As coach, I am glad I have the same team, but I know the club have to sell players for financial reasons," added Dragićević. "There is interest in our players and we could lose two or three, but we have replacements with youngsters such as Marko Vukčević and Miloš Kalezić. Nikola Vukčević, Stefan Mugoša and Risto Radunović are already regular members of the first team, so whatever happens we will have a tight squad."
Midfielder Vukčević, who has received a first call-up to the Montenegro senior team for the friendly against Latvia on 15 August, is determined that he and his team-mates prove themselves to be "the best in the country".
He continued: "We play for the biggest club and we must be aware that every opponent will have extra motivation against us. Also, it is always more difficult to defend than to win. We successfully coped with the pressure last season and I am sure we can show the same determination and calm."
As well as seeing off all comers last term, Budućnost broke records aplenty – most points, most goals scored, longest winning streak – but Vukčević knows a repeat is far from inevitable. "It will be difficult to repeat those numbers because a lot of teams are stronger than ever before," he said. "However, we are Budućnost and we are not afraid of anyone."