Seven years after stunning Newcastle United FC to earn Serbia's only UEFA Champions League group appearance so far, FK Partizan aim to repeat the feat when RSC Anderlecht visit.
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FK Partizan are looking to a good omen as they prepare to welcome RSC Anderlecht in the UEFA Champions League play-offs – their elimination of Newcastle United FC seven years ago.
The penalty shoot-out victory at St James' Park ensured Partizan became the only Serbian team to date to play in the group stage. On Wednesday they hope to go a step closer to repeating that feat but know the Belgian champions present a formidable obstacle.
"Anderlecht are a really good club," Partizan coach Aleksandar Stanojević said. "The positive thing for us is fact that we are not under pressure. We said before the start of the season that we had no obligation to reach the Champions League."
Stanojević, who has told his team to attack "from the first minute", said of their visitors: "Their main weapon is quick play. The most dangerous players are Romelo Lukaku, Mbark Boussoufa, Matías Suárez and Jonathan Legear, but they are a unit more than a group of individuals. Maybe they look the better team, but I have confidence in my players."
Partizan playmaker Almami Moreira is a doubt with a knee injury and midfielder Stefan Babović, who rejoined his old club from FC Nantes this week, did not sign in time to register. However, they do boast two members of the 2003/04 squad that returned this year, forward Ivica Iliev and midfielder Saša Ilić. "I have great memories from our previous season in the Champions League and I know very well what a brilliant feeling it is," Ilić said.
Anderlecht have been waiting since 2006/07 to make their tenth group stage appearance, having fallen to Fenerbahçe SK, FC BATE Borisov and Olympique Lyonnais in recent reasons. Striker Tom De Sutter suffered an ankle injury in the 4-0 league defeat of KFC Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen on Saturday and is out for several months, while also missing the trip are forward Leagear and midfielder Lucas Biglia due to hamstring and shoulder problems respectively.
Better news for coach Ariël Jacobs is the return of Czech midfielder Jan Polák, who missed most of last season with cruciate knee ligament damage and was left out of the initial squad amid rumours of an imminent exit. However, he is now included following the agreement of a one-year contract extension until 2012.
Polák made it 4-0 at the weekend within three minutes of his late introduction and Jacobs said: "For him it will also be a chance to wipe the memory of a tough campaign and a difficult pre-season. I am glad my players looked hungry against Germinal Beerschot and showed they know how to live from match to match. Wednesday will be a very serious affair for us."