"Even if there was only a 1% chance of qualifying I wouldn't abandon hope," said Legia striker Nemanja Nikolić, with the Polish side hoping for a Group D miracle.
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Fourth in Group D, Legia's hopes of reaching the UEFA Europa League round of 32 are slender at best. They can only qualify if they win their final game – a huge task considering they are away to confirmed table-toppers Napoli – and the match between Midtjylland and Club Brugge ends in a draw.
Nemanja Nikolić, the standout striker in Poland's Ekstraklasa this season, has not given up. "Even if there was only a 1% chance of qualifying I wouldn't abandon hope," said the forward, whose 20 goals in 19 appearances put him top of the Ekstraklasa scoring charts, eight clear of Cracovia's Deniss Rakeļs. "Our situation is very difficult but we will fight till the last. Football is not mathematics, so who knows; maybe Legia's fans will be happy on Thursday night?"
The 27-year-old joined the Wojskowi from Videoton in June and is currently the third-highest scorer in Europe, his 23 strikes across all competitions placing him just behind Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (25) and Shakhtar's Alex Teixeira (26).
"I have been high up the Golden Boot rankings since the campaign began, but I have kept telling myself, 'Easy, it is early days – other leagues and some great strikers have not started yet and they will overtake you'," the Hungarian international noted. "However, even now I am still third in Europe. Of course I know my place if we start talking about the elite forwards, but I am still proud of how the season has gone."
Nikolić’s form has got many in Poland whispering that Henryk Reyman's record total of 37 goals, registered in the Ekstraklasa's first-ever year of 1927, could perhaps be under threat. "I know people have talked about it, but I am trying to stay calm," said the man nicknamed 'NiGOALić'. "However, I will tell you one thing: yes, I do want to be top scorer in Poland. If any striker says they don't care about being top scorer, they are lying. They always care."
Despite his prolific efforts, one distinction currently eludes Nikolić – he has yet to net in this UEFA Europa League group stage, a fact he is keen to rectify: "I scored goals in qualifying, but it is not the end of the world – I can still do it," he said. "Perhaps I will score on Thursday in Italy and this goal will be priceless for us and get us into the next round.
"When I came to Legia, the club told told me we have two aims: to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage and to bring back the Polish title. The first we have done, the second I hope we will do. Some targets are already achieved, but we definitely want more."