PFC Levski Sofia coach Emil Velev promised his side will "attack from the first minute" against MŠK Žilina tonight as they look to carry the prestige of Bulgarian football into the group stage of the 2008/09 UEFA Cup.
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Carrying the flag
With A PFG rivals PFC Litex Lovech and PFC Cherno More Varna seemingly heading for the exit door after losing the home legs of their first-round ties, Levski look like the only Bulgarian side with a realistic chance of progressing after earning a 1-1 away draw against Žilina. However, the club's coach is not about to play it cautiously. "We will attack from the first minute," promised Velev, who was a combative midfielder for Levski back in the 1980s. "This is our style. We want to score as many as possible. A 1-1 away draw is a good result, but also a tricky one."
Velev has undertaken a crash course in coaching on the continental stage. He started the season as assistant to Velislav Vutsov at Levski, but was promoted to the senior role after Vutsov was dismissed in the wake of his side's shock 1-0 home defeat by FC BATE Borisov in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. Velev could only earn a 1-1 draw in the away leg, and his side have not had it all their own way in the league either, losing two of their first six games.
A 2-0 win against title rivals Litex at the weekend has dispelled some doubts, and Levski are now fourth, four points adrift of league leaders PFC CSKA Sofia with a game in hand. Velev has profited from a return to the style of Levski's most successful coach of recent years, Stanimir Stoilov, who took his 4-3-3 formation to the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2006/07. However, while the changes have been backward looking, they have demanded some tough decisions of the coach.
'We must be ready'
Crowd favourites Georgi Ivanov and promising attacker Nikolay Dimitrov have returned to the bench with diminutive Brazilians Zé Soares and Joãozinho now occupying the flanks. Velev has also brought Darko Tasevski back into the starting XI – the F.Y.R. Macedonia midfielder scored both goals against Litex on Saturday – and feels his side have reason for optimism again. "We know that we must not expect an easy game [against Žilina], but we have had a welcome morale boost and we must be ready," concluded Velev.