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Sheriff steeled for final challenge

Without a doubt 2009 has been the best in FC Sheriff's 12-year history and coach Leonid Kuchuk is aiming to end it on a high by winning at Fenerbahçe SK, keeping hopes alive of a last-32 spot.

Sheriff coach Leonid Kuchuk
Sheriff coach Leonid Kuchuk ©FC Sheriff

Without a doubt 2009 has been the best in FC Sheriff's short 12-year history and coach Leonid Kuchuk hopes to end it on a winning note at Fenerbahçe SK.

Winning goal
Sheriff have been unstoppable on the domestic front this year, winning the Moldovan league and cup double – their ninth championship in a row – as well as clinching the Commonwealth Cup in Moscow in January. The biggest success of all, however, was qualifying for the UEFA Europa League group stage. Though Sheriff kicked off their Group H campaign as underdogs, they go into their final game still in a position to qualify. "Who would have thought we would still be in with a chance of reaching the knockout phase with a game to go?" Kuchuk asked. "We still have the same goal – to win."

Mistakes and experience
Sheriff trail second-placed FC Twente by two points and must beat group winners Fenerbahçe and hope the Dutch side fail to win at eliminated FC Steaua Bucureşti if they are to advance. Just to be in this position on Matchday 6 is commendable, but Kuchuk believes his side should have done better. "I don't know if Steaua can avoid defeat, but I will be supporting them," he said. "We could have been in a better position, but poor mistakes really cost us. At least that helped us understand that minor mistakes at this level can be crucial. This is good experience. We are not ashamed by our performances this year. People say we don't score many goals, but who does at such a high level?"

Sheriff won their final league game of 2009 last week and go into the winter break on top of the Divizia Nationala, aiming to join a list of European sides to win ten championships in a row that currently is just five strong. As Sheriff prepare for their last game of the year Kuchuk's players are fully fit and ready for one last effort. "We need to win and we shouldn't be afraid," striker Vladimir Volkov said. "As long as we still have a chance we have to fight and do our best. We respect our famous opponents, but we also know our own strengths. We lost 1-0 [to Fenerbahçe] in Tiraspol, but that game has given us the belief we can do well against them."