Slovakian UEFA Cup hopefuls MŠK Žilina believe this could be their year as coach Pavel Vrba seeks to take his players to the next level in European competition.
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UEFA Cup hopefuls MŠK Žilina believe this could be their year as coach Pavel Vrba seeks to take the club to the next level in European competition.
The four-time Slovakian champions reached the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League last season and the same stage in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup, but Czech trainer Vrba is dreaming of higher goals this time round. "I yearn for us to play in this season's UEFA Cup group stage," the 45-year-old told uefa.com. "We want to finally make the breakthrough. However, to do this, we have to get past Belarussian side [FC] MTZ-RIPO Minsk and then to survive two more rounds. We will fight all the way for sure, but we need to have luck."
Žilina commenced their European campaign with an excellent result in Minsk, gaining a 2-2 draw after a Róbert Jež equaliser from the penalty spot deep into added time, but Vrba is taking nothing for granted. "Nothing is decided yet," he added. "[MTZ-RIPO] have a good team with many national team players and both sides still have a chance ahead of Thursday's second leg."
Runners-up to FC Artmedia Petržalka last term, Žilina relinquished their Slovakian Superliga crown and although Vrba acknowledges he would like a repeat of his and the team's triumph in 2006/07, he is putting success on the continental stage at the top of his priority list. "Of course I would like to win another Slovakian title, but if I had to choose, I would prefer success in Europe," he said. "Making the UEFA Cup group stage would definitely be a success for us. But you know, the best option is success both at home and abroad!"
Despite Vrba's guarded optimism, he knows how hard the competition is especially when Žilina have not progressed further in the past with what he considered a better squad. "I think we actually had a stronger side when I arrived at the club," he added. "At that time, for example, Tomáš Hubočan [who now plays in Russia for UEFA Cup winners FC Zenit St. Petersburg] was in the team." However, Vrba is still confident Žilina can better their previous best in the UEFA Cup, when they reached the first round for the only time in 2003/04 succumbing 6-0 on aggregate to Dutch side FC Utrecht.