Leonid Kuchuk considers Olympiacos FC the strongest opponents possible for his FC Sheriff charges but neither he nor opposite number Temuri Ketsbaia will be taking the outcome for granted.
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FC Sheriff coach Leonid Kuchuk may consider Olympiacos FC as "the strongest opponents we could have drawn" but he refused to rule out an upset as he welcomed the Greek champions to Tiraspol with his players' sights set on becoming the first Moldovan team to reach the group stage.
Leonid Kuchuk, Sheriff coach
Olympiacos were the strongest opponents we could have drawn, but it will make this tie even more interesting. We have played against similarly strong opponents in Europe several times and gained experience. I do not like it when people consider one side as favourites. Who would have imagined [FC] BATE Borisov reaching the group stage last season? We have raised our standards very high this season and now we can try to go higher. As for my suspension, we have an organised and disciplined team and my absence from the bench should not be a major factor.
Temuri Ketsbaia, Olympiacos coach
Sheriff are a very disciplined team, who are capable of punishing you for any mistakes. We should pay special attention to their set-pieces, which is one of their strong suits, but they also play good football and have fast strikers. We can't lose like last year – we have to make the group stage and we can't afford to underestimate our opponents. We will try to win the tie in the first leg and will do everything to achieve this goal, although a draw would not be the worst result.
• Sheriff have already gone further than ever before by reaching this final hurdle in qualifying, but blocking their path are an Olympiacos side determined to make amends for missing out on the group stage last season.
• Olympiacos suffered a surprise loss to Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta FC in the 2008/09 third qualifying round, then the last step before the competition proper. If the Greek titleholders need reminding of that defeat, they do not have to look far, as their new coach Temuri Ketsbaia was in charge of Anorthosis at the time.
• Prior to that loss, Olympiacos had competed in the UEFA Champions League group stage for eleven consecutive seasons and they advanced to the last 16 in the 2007/08 season before losing to Chelsea FC.
• Sheriff fell in the second qualifying round for eight years running before this season, when the change in the qualifying format meant they entered the competition at that same stage.
How they reached the play-offs
• Sheriff beat FC International Turku 2-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round, Alexandru Suvorov scoring from the penalty spot in both legs. They then secured their passage to the play-off round by defeating SK Slavia Praha on away goals following a 1-1 aggregate draw. José Nadson scored the decisive equaliser in Prague three minutes into added time to send the Moldovan champions through.
• Olympiacos entered the competition in the third qualifying round, where they recorded 2-0 victories both at home and away against ŠK Slovan Bratislava.
Out: Abdul Mamah (hamstring), José Nadson (knee)
Suspended: Leonid Kuchuk
Misses next match if booked: Benjamin Belima, Jymmy França, Abdul Mamah
Misses next match if booked: Enzo Maresca
Last competitive results
Did you know?
As a player, Olympiacos coach Ketsbaia once scored a winning goal in Moldova for his national team. Ketsbaia fired the only effort of the match as Georgia won a FIFA World Cup qualifier there in September 1997. He figured in two other internationals against Moldova: a 2-0 home win in that same World Cup qualifying competition and a 3-2 away loss in EURO '96™ qualifying in 1995.