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Bursaspor provide KuPS with perfect distraction

KuPS Kuopio are bottom of the Finnish top flight but coach Esa Pekonen hopes they can do "something exceptional" away to Bursaspor in Thursday's third qualifying round decider.

Sander Puri scored the only goal of the first leg
Sander Puri scored the only goal of the first leg ©Jussi Eskola

KuPS Kuopio may be languishing rock bottom of the Finnish First Division but in European competition they are primed to spring a major surprise.

KuPS have already won two rounds of UEFA Europa League qualifying – against Llanelli AFC and Maccabi Netanya FC – and are now on the brink of overcoming Bursaspor in order to reach the play-offs. Though Esa Pekonen's side are 1-0 up after last week's home leg, he knows nothing is guaranteed ahead of Thursday's trip to Turkey.

"Bursaspor are an excellent team and it will be a tough second leg," he said. "For certain the task will not be easier than it was a week ago. We want to reach the next round and achieve something exceptional in Finnish club football."

His club's domestic travails took another downward turn at the weekend when they suffered a 2-0 home loss to FC Honka Espoo, yet Pekonen feels the tide could turn at any moment. "In the first half we played very well and the only thing missing was goals," he said. "When you do not take your chances, the opponent usually does. We could well have got something out of this, which is very typical this season."

While Pekonen has no fresh injury concerns, Bursaspor coach Ertuğrul Sağlam must make do without left-back Gökçek Vederson, who is absent for family reasons. The return of forward Stanislav Šesták, however, will help to strengthen the Bursaspor attack as they seek the goals needed to progress.

"We couldn't get the result we wanted in Finland and lost to an unlucky goal," said Bursaspor midfielder Musa Çağıran. "We had our chances but failed to convert them. Now the game will be at our home ground. We expect the opposition to play with men behind the ball, which will force us to find the key to open up their defence. We really want to continue representing Turkey in the Europa League, which is why we want to get a good result and continue towards our target."   

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