Red Star Belgrade head into Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Liverpool as outsiders, but manager Vladan Milojevic believes home advantage can be key.
That night was notable for the absence of Red Star supporters, with the Serbian SuperLiga leaders banned from selling tickets for the away game.
On Tuesday evening, however, they are expecting a packed Marakana, and speaking ahead of the game Milojevic hailed it as a milestone for the club on their return to the European Cup.
“For Red Star, the city of Belgrade, Serbia and the whole region, this is an important event,” he told reporters on Monday.
“One of the best teams in Europe and the world comes to us.
“I think it will be a real spectacle in the stadium and an atmosphere awaits us that only our fans can create.
“Liverpool are a favourite, no matter what. We’re prepared to do our best, as in all of our matches so far—it’s the philosophy my players have.
“I’m happy for the club and my players, and I’m proud because we will have a real spectacle in Belgrade. I hope we all enjoy the game.”
Red Star took a more front-footed approach than expected in the reverse fixture, and with the home crowd roaring them on Milojevic expects his players to have “extra energy.”
“We know that we did not have the support of our fans for the previous two matches,” he added.
“Everyone knows what it means to play at the Marakana, no one feels comfortable with it, and it puts wind in our sails, because the atmosphere is much different than at other stadiums.
“We get extra energy from the stands, and although this may not have much impact on the Liverpool players, I believe that this will be a fascinating atmosphere for them.”
But it is unlikely they will be too ambitious going forward, with the 48-year-old’s priority restricting space to stifle Jurgen Klopp‘s attack.
“It is important to be concentrated for all 90 minutes and keep a high level of play in all stages, on every part of the field,” he explained.
“Liverpool is one of the main contenders to win the Champions League; the team is made to attack for the title.
“We need to be concentrated all the time, because every pause and the smallest little thing is immediately punished.
“So it is necessary to reduce the empty space as much as possible.”
And while Milojevic admitted “we do not even think about the result,” he insisted his side “will fight for each ball,” which is something key man Marko Marin echoed.
“The Italians came to our stadium with winning ambitions, many believed in their triumph, but we sprung a surprise,” he recalled.
“And against Liverpool will be difficult, but the support of the [home crowd] is our trick.
“It is on us to fight for each ball and to show more than the previous two matches.”