Partizani face Austrian champions in tough Champions League encounter

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 26, 2016 10:13

Partizani face Austrian champions in tough Champions League encounter

TIRANA, July 26 – Partizani will host Austrian champions Salzburg tonight in a tough Champions League encounter following a historic qualification with Hungary’s Ferencvaros in a penalty shootout last week.

Partizani’s Italian coach Adolfo Sormani says he is optimistic about the challenge but admits it will be tough for the Albanian-runners against Salzburg considering the huge gap in the club ranking.

“There’s huge optimism but we should keep our feet on the ground. We are talking about a challenge where the mouse and elephant will face each other. We should work more than others and talk less. We should do everything well against each opponent and I believe this is the philosophy I have applied in Partizani,” the coach said at a press conference ahead of the July 26 night fixture at the Elbasan Arena stadium.

In the latest UEFA club ranking, Partizani who are making their comeback in the Champions League campaign after more than two decades ranked 332, lagging behind 283 places the Austrian champions who ranked 49th.

Albanian reigning champions Skenderbeu who were banned to participate in this year’s Champions League campaign on match fixing allegations and were replaced by Partizani ranked 192nd in the July UEFA club ranking.

Salzburg coach Oscar Garcia says he expects a tough first leg encounter also considering Albania’s sizzling summer temperatures.

“Every team who makes it this far has enough quality and are dangerous opponents. We know about their qualities as we watched them in the match against Ferencvaros, which they won on a penalty shoot-out,” he said.

If they beat Salzburg, Partizani can secure a place in the Champions League play-off round, the same as Skenderbeu did last year, and automatically make it to the Europa League group stage even if they fail to qualify.

Optimism is huge among Partizani, once the most successful side under communism, Partizani has been trophyless since 1993.

Goalkeeper Alban Hoxha turned a hero for Partizani last week as he scored a penalty and saved three others to lead the Albanian team to a historic qualification against Hungarian champions Ferencvaros in a penalty shootout in the Champions League second qualifying round.

Partizani entered the Champions League campaign after Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a UEFA ruling that bans Albania’s champions Skenderbeu from European competition for 1 year over match fixing allegations. The early July decision allowed Superliga runners up Partizani replace the sixth straight Albania champions Skёnderbeu in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League campaign, while their previous opponents Slovan Bratislava proceeded directly to the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.

 

Partizani vs Salzburg

 

Elbasan Arena – Elbasan, July 26, 20:15 local time

Third qualifying round, First leg

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 26, 2016 10:13