AEK Athens FC coach Dusan Bajevic insists his side will not lack motivation against AS Monaco FC.
By Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens
AEK Athens FC coach Dusan Bajevic insists his side will not lack motivation against AS Monaco FC as the curtain comes down on their UEFA Champions League campaign.
The Greek side are adrift at the bottom of Group C, having collected a single point from their five matches so far, and do not even have the consolation prize of third position and a place in the UEFA Cup to play for, with PSV Eindhoven six points ahead. Monaco, in contrast, have already confirmed their progress to the knockout stages and need only to match the result of second-placed RC Deportivo La Coruña - who travel to PSV - to win the section.
Despite the disappointment of another early elimination from the Champions League, Bajevic insists morale is good and is optimistic his side can record their first-ever victory in the competition proper, at the 18th time of asking. "We want to win this match because we want to restore our prestige in Europe," the AEK coach said. "We don't want to spoil the reputation we earned after last year's run."
'Bad form and bad luck'
AEK also fell at the first hurdle last season after drawing all six of their group matches, and Bajevic attributed his team's failure to build on that to an uncharacteristic lapse in standards. "We just haven't had the form we needed," he said. "We've been unlucky."
AEK are without striker Ilija Ilic through injury, while defender Michalis Kapsis will undergo a late fitness test after sustaining a knee injury in Sunday's 3-1 win against Xanthi FC. That victory earned fulsome praise from the usually laconic Bajevic, who said: "We played exactly how I want the team to play."
None the less, AEK face a stiff test against a Monaco side who are the top scorers in the competition, having found the net 15 times in the competition to date, including a remarkable 8-3 triumph against Deportivo and a 4-0 win against AEK on Matchday 2.
'Prestige, points and reputation'
While praising Monaco as the best team in the competition so far, Greek international striker Vassilios Lakis echoed his coach's sentiments and stressed that the players have their pride at stake. "Our motive is our prestige, the points and the reputation of Greek football," Lakis said.
Monaco coach Didier Deschamps is taking nothing for granted, however, and said he was impressed by AEK's performance in the opening stages of their first meeting. "They could have scored one or two goals before we scored and the match could have had a different outcome," he said. "It will be a very difficult game. We are through, but I want us to win the group."
Deschamps is without Ludovic Giuly and Andreas Zikos, who were both dismissed in the 1-1 draw with PSV in the previous round of matches, while Italian goalkeeper Flavio Roma is out after injuring himself in training. Jérôme Rothen has travelled to Athens after recovering from tonsillitis, with Dado Pršo expected to play despite a pulled leg muscle. Deschamps is confident his understrength side will shrug off the absentees. "It's not pleasant but we have the players to cope," he said.