Chidi Odiah and Osmar Ferreyra believe PFC CSKA Moskva will claim the UEFA Cup in Lisbon.
By Hugo Pietra in Lisbon
Two of PFC CSKA Moskva's long-distance travellers, Chidi Odiah and Osmar Ferreyra, have backed Valeriy Gazzaev's side to defy the odds in this evening's UEFA Cup final and overcome Sporting Clube de Portugal at their Estádio José Alvalade home.
Nigerian left-back Odiah and Argentinian midfield player Ferreyra have both carved out successful careers in Moscow and are convinced that CSKA have what it takes to become the first Russian club to win a major European title. "I am very confident about winning and I think CSKA are the favourites," Odiah told uefa.com. "I know Sporting are playing at home but this is the third time we have come to Portugal this year. I don't think it will be a big advantage for Sporting to play in their stadium."
The 22-year-old left-sided midfield player Ferreyra had a different view. "I think it's a slight advantage for Sporting to play at home because they will have great support from the stands," he told uefa.com. "However, we just have to play like we usually do and think only about winning this important trophy."
CSKA have been to Portugal twice this season, earning a goalless draw against FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League group stage, and then picking up a 1-1 draw in Lisbon against SL Benfica in the second leg of their last-32 UEFA Cup tie to secure a 3-1 aggregate win against Sporting's local rivals.
"We've played Porto and Benfica and along with Sporting that makes three great teams," Ferreyra said. "They are all doing well in the domestic league and that shows how good they are. I think it will be a hard game and we will have to play our best football in order to defeat Sporting."
Respect for Sporting
Odiah, who played for Nigerian sides Iwuanyanwu Nationale FC, Eagle Cement FC and Julius Berger FC before establishing himself in Europe with FC Sheriff in Moldova, has also heard enough to know that Sporting are a force to be reckoned with in European football.
"Sporting are a really talented side and I've been hearing about this team for a long time," said the 21-year-old, who joined CSKA last year. "They have quality players. We know Portuguese teams very well as we played against Porto and Benfica this season."
However, like Odiah, Ferreyra is not overawed. "Our team is in really good shape and we proved in this year's UEFA Cup that we're also a quality team," he said. "Sporting have shown great quality too and we are pretty much even. I think it will be a great match and both teams will start with an equal chance."
Ferreyra, who joined CSKA in 2004 from CA River Plate in his homeland for €4m, will be hoping to do some damage to Sporting with his charges up the left flank. If he does forage forward, he is likely to come up against an old friend of Odiah's, Sporting's Nigerian defender Joseph Enakarhire.
"Among the Sporting players I only know Joseph because we're friends and play together in the Nigerian team," said Odiah, who captained Nigeria's Under-17 team at the 1999 UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup. Should CSKA win in Lisbon, that friendship may not last until the summer.