Preview: Tuesday’s five play-off first legs

16 Aug

Steaua v Manchester City
Laurențiu Reghecampf, Steaua
There’s no reason we shouldn’t play football and get a positive result. Even though we’re facing a big team and the world’s best coach, it’s a chance to prove ourselves. We respect them, but we have a good team and I am very confident we will reach the group stage again. We will attack and look to score from the first minute – we have no choice.

Josep Guardiola, Manchester City
I am not here to prove that I am the best coach in the world, but to help my players anticipate what they might expect and find solutions, to find ways of scoring at least goal. In the Champions League it is so important to score away. Our first target, though, is to play well, because I want the fans to say at the end of the day how well and nice we played.

• City’s only previous encounters with Romanian opponents came during the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League play-offs, when they beat Timişoara 3-0 on aggregate. Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, David Silva and Yaya Touré featured in the tie.

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Ajax’s Kasper Dolberg after his equaliser against PAOK

Ajax v Rostov
Peter Bosz, Ajax
We have conceded too many goals in recent matches so we have to improve our defensive game, especially against an opponent like Rostov. They have a lot of quality players and are extremely dangerous on the counterattack.

Dimitri Kirichenko, Rostov (caretaker coach)
At this moment our team is in a tricky situation. We have had quite a hectic schedule and the coach of last season is set to leave the club – he will help us in the first leg against Ajax, though. We know that Ajax can play different systems and we are prepared for it. They are more experienced, but it is 50-50.

• Ajax have lost all four of their previous matches against Russian clubs, all versus Spartak Moskva. They went down 3-1 at home and 1-0 away in a 1997/98 UEFA Cup quarter-final and 1-0 in Amsterdam and 3-0 in Moscow in a 2010/11 UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie.

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Dinamo have won 4 out of 4 so far

Dinamo Zagreb v Salzburg
Zlatko Kranjčar, Dinamo
These two matches are the most vital for us as the Champions League is at stake. I hope Salzburg are not at the same level as they were two years ago [when they twice beat Dinamo in the group stage]. We have some injury worries, but the last two matches show our form is improving so I believe we can do a good job.

Óscar García, Salzburg
Dinamo Zagreb are a strong team that have been group stage regulars in recent years. It was difficult to reach this stage, though, and we dream of winning a place in the group stage for the first time. The best Salzburg team in history reached play-offs [in 2010/11 and 2011/12] but didn’t go through. Now it’s our chance.

• Salzburg have yet to win a UEFA Champions League play-off tie, bowing out to Malmö (2014/15), Hapoel Tel-Aviv (2010/11) and Maccabi Haifa (2009/10) in their three previous attempts.

Young Boys v Mönchengladbach
Adi Hütter, Young Boys
We’re delighted to be in the play-offs. I don’t think many people felt we would beat Shakhtar Donetsk in the last round and now we’re up against a top Bundesliga side. We have competitive games in our legs – two league games and four in Europe – while Gladbach had their last friendly, against Lazio, a week ago. But our biggest advantage is playing at home.

André Schubert, Gladbach
We’re really looking forward to getting the season under way. It’s a huge challenge, but we know what to expect and we’re looking forward to it. They will want to put us under pressure since they are the home team so we’ve got to be prepared.

• The clubs are meeting for the first time in a competitive game, but their paths crossed as recently as 13 July when they drew 3-3 in a friendly, Thorgan Hazard scoring twice for Mönchengladbach.

København v APOEL
Ståle Solbakken, København
In 2009 we lost and APOEL made their European breakthrough with a lot of great players in the team. Now they have a somewhat different team, with a lot of experience but fewer big names. They know what to do. We only have one player from the match in 2009 so I don’t think any of the players will hold a grudge but our fans and I want revenge.

Thomas Christiansen, APOEL
I would have preferred not to come here [Christiansen was born in Denmark] but I am happy just to be in the play-offs. I anticipate a difficult game and we would like to avoid the mistakes we made in the first 60 minutes against Rosenborg in the last round. Physically and tactically FCK are a very strong team but we will have our chances, I’m sure of it. 

• Ivan Jovanović’s APOEL eliminated Solbakken’s FCK in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League play-offs. Zdeněk Pospěch scored the only goal as FCK won in Copenhagen, but Kamil Kosowski (2) and Chrysostomos Michail (18pen 41) struck in a 3-1 home victory for APOEL in the return leg.

Reporting from Paul-Daniel Zaharia, Martijn Sterke, Ben Gladwell, Elvir Islamović, Rasmus Munch


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