Sport Soccer

Saturday 17 March 2018

Boss Stanojevic expects Serbians to get job done

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THE translated word can sometimes be blunter than the original meaning.

But there was no disguising the belief of Partizan Belgrade manager Aleksandar Stanojevic as he sized up his team's chances of progression to the group stages of the Europa League.

Stanojevic's team trained in Tallaght Stadium last night ahead of the first leg of their showdown with Shamrock Rovers tonight.

While he was complimentary about the hosts from what he saw of their battles with FC Copenhagen, the 37-year-old was definitive with respect to the overall picture.

"We are favourites in both matches," he said, "They are a very aggressive and disciplined team but, nevertheless, I think we can pass through to the group stages."

Despite the bullishness, Stanojevic said he would be happy enough with a draw in Ireland as he would fancy his chances in Belgrade next Thursday.

The confidence on that score is understandable, given the likely intimidating atmosphere that will await the Dubliners in the Serbia.

Michael O'Neill got a taste last weekend, when he watched Partizan stuff FK Novi Pazar 5-0.

He left the stadium with five minutes remaining, and found he was the only one leaving early.

"Generally (over in this part of the world) once you go three or four-nil up the fans tend to think about how they are getting home," smiled O'Neill. "There were 10,500 at the game and they never stopped getting behind their team. The energy the fans gave to their team was exceptional. I've not seen that a lot."

Rovers skipper Dan Murray knows what to expect. He was part of a Cork team that travelled to Belgrade to take on Partizan's arch-rivals Red Star in 2006. The tight security and ferocious atmosphere is the lingering memory.

"If Red Star are anything to go by, when we go out there it's going to be pretty hostile," said Murray.

"When we were in Belgrade, the fans were in the stadium two-and-a-half hours before the game.

"They're fanatical. We always had police with us, even if we went for a walk outside the hotel.

"Most people I speak to seem to talk about Ross Kemp and the programmes he does about the gangs over there. So, yeah, they'll be hostile and a few of the players might get a bit of stick."

Of course, the heat could turn on Partizan if they are in a difficult position.

Stanojevic is obviously sure of their prospects, but he is not without his problems.

Ex-Serbian international Zvonomir Vukic is suspended, while forward Marco Scepovic also misses out. Brazilian forward Eduardo is a doubt, and his wellbeing will determine if the visitors go with two strikers up front.

Irish Independent

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