Stanimir Stoilov has called on his Levski Sofia players to perform with “cool heads and hot hearts” when they try to keep their slender Champions League ambitions alive against Werder Bremen.
Should Bremen record a second successive victory over the Bulgarian champions and Barcelona beat Chelsea FC in Group A’s other game, then Levski will only be playing for pride in their final two group fixtures.
Stoilov has had to adjust his preparations following a training injury to goalkeeper Georgi Petkov in training. In his place comes Nikolay Mihaylov, the 18-year-old son of Bulgarian goalkeeping legend Borislav Mihaylov who is now president of the Bulgarian Football Union.
To compound matters, Levski forward Valeri Domovchiyski has suffered the recurrence of an adductor injury so Stoilov must rule out a total of three strikers with Georgi Ivanov and Milan Koprivarov also unavailable.
The Sofia club have been the whipping boys of the group, yet the coach is optimistic his team can start making amends.
“We realise we still have a relative chance to go through and we will go for the win,” he said. “Against Bremen we have to show our real abilities and I hope that will happen. My desire is to play with cool heads and hot hearts. There is no place for emotions or nerves.”
Bremen are on fire in the Bundesliga at present, scoring six for the second time in three Bundesliga games as they won 6-1 at FSV Mainz last Friday.
Not surprisingly, coach Thomas Schaaf is happy with his side’s form at the moment and believes that, even without the injured Tim Borowski, Christian Schulz, Mohamed Zidan and Patrick Owomoyela, Bremen are good enough to get a win.
“We expect them to be at their best and they will have the crowd behind them, but we are in good form and our aim is to finish in the top two,” Schaaf said.
Another victory will put pressure on Barcelona and enable Bremen to leapfrog the reigning champions into second place, provided Barça do not beat Chelsea.
Nikolay Mihaylov; Zhivko Milanov, Elin Topuzakov, Igor Tomaši?, Lucio Wagner; Richard Eromoigbe, Daniel Borimirov, Dimitar Telkiyski, Stanislav Angelov, Cédric Bardon; Hristo Yovov.
Tim Wiese; Clemens Fritz, Per Mertesacker, Naldo, Pierre Wome; Frank Baumann, Diego, Torsten Frings, Jurica Vranješ; Aaron Hunt, Miroslav Klose.