Goalkeeper Ibrahim Šehić has called on Qarabağ FK to "show we have a strong and united squad worthy of respect" when they take on FC Internazionale Milano in Group F.
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It was not long ago that the notion of Qarabağ FK facing three-time winners FC Internazionale Milano in the UEFA Europa League group stage would have seemed a little far-fetched.
However, Qarabağ will be at San Siro on Thursday for their second Group F assignment, having drawn 0-0 with AS Saint-Étienne on matchday one. The Azerbaijani champions acquitted themselves superbly against their Ligue 1 guests and emerged disappointed they could not secure all three points. Now comes perhaps the trickiest test of all – a resurgent Inter side on their own patch.
"Nobody knows how we will do against one of the leading Italian clubs," said goalkeeper Ibrahim Šehić. "We will try to enjoy our game and, most importantly, show that we have a strong and united squad worthy of respect."
Qarabağ head to Milan intent on being more than just tourists. They can, at least, draw on the exploits of countrymen Neftçi PFK, who secured a 2-2 draw at Inter in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League group stage.
Indeed, although Gurban Gurbanov's team have injury concerns – Danilo Dias and Chumbinho are long-term absentees, Reynaldo a doubt – there is a confident mood in the camp. "We need to prepare wisely and count on those who are fit," said the coach. "It'll be a severe battle against a top side from Italy."
As for playmaker Richard Almeida, he believes the Azeri hopefuls will still be competitive despite missing key players, having proved their worth in Saturday's 3-1 victory at Neftçi. "We got three points despite Sadygov, Chumbinho and Dias not playing," said the Brazilian. "That match highlighted once again that we have cover for every player in our team. We cannot expect to win 3-1 in Milan, but we'll try to put in a great performance, no matter what."
Defender Ansi Agolli's outlook is equally positive. "Things happen in football, so you never know," explained the Albanian international. "Who would have thought our national team would beat Portugal in an away game? But we did.
"So Qarabağ can dream about prevailing at Inter. You cannot forget what kind of opposition we are up against, though. This is a world-famous team, so you can't expect an easy ride." Nor, of course, can Inter.