"The games will be spectacular," said PFC Ludogorets Razgrad defender Cosmin Moți – a former FC Dinamo Bucureşti stalwart – as his side gear up to meet FC Steaua Bucureşti.
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To say that PFC Ludogorets Razgrad defender Cosmin Moți is familiar with UEFA Champions League play-off opponents FC Steaua Bucureşti would be something of an understatement.
Before arriving at Ludogorets in summer 2012, the Romanian international had spent seven seasons at Steaua's arch-rivals FC Dinamo Bucureşti and featured in 12 Bucharest derbies. The experienced centre-back is understandably steeling himself for a testing evening at the Arena Națională on Tuesday, but the renewal of old hostilities is far from the first thing on his mind.
"I expect a tough reception," Moți admitted, after the play-off draw paired Ludogorets with the 1985/86 European Champion Clubs' Cup winners. "But I don't think the tie will be special for me. The most important thing is that we reach the Champions League. It is very good for us that the first leg is in Bucharest. The stadium will be full, no doubt about it, and the pressure will be enormous, but we should be ready."
Ludogorets have come a long way in a short space of time, and Moți was one of the key during their run to the round of 16 in last season's UEFA Europa League. Nevertheless, the 29-year-old recognises that meeting the challenge posed by a club with Steaua's pedigree will be no easy matter.
"I don't know if we have a better team than Steaua, but we will do everything in our power to qualify," said Moți. "I can't say if Steaua are favourites, but they certainly have a lot more experience than we do. They are a very good team, but we have a chance. The pressure is on Steaua.
"Personally, I did not want to play Steaua as they are a very, very strong team with a lot of experience," continued the Resita-born player. "But we believe in our abilities and for me the tie is very well balanced. The games will be spectacular, I am sure of that."
Those sentiments were echoed by Ludogorets' new Tunisian forward Hamza Younes who, after choosing the Bulgarian champions over Steaua this summer, has quickly settled into his new surroundings. Younes has been in red-hot form in front of goal, scoring in the 3-1 Bulgarian Super Cup win against PFC Botev Plovdiv and the 2-0 league defeat of PFC CSKA Sofia on Saturday.
"I am happy I scored two goals in my first two games for Ludogorets and now I am looking forward to playing against Steaua," said the 28-year-old forward. "I have already watched Steaua's two previous UEFA Champions league games and they are a very strong team. I expect a great battle."