"Allah helps those who truly believe in their task," said FC Rubin Kazan coach Kurban Berdyev as his side take a 2-0 lead into their UEFA Europa League round of 32 decider against Club Atlético de Madrid.
The dismissal of captain Roman Sharonov midway through last week's first leg did not dampen Rubin's ardour as goals from Gökdeniz Karadeniz (6) and Pablo Orbaiz (95) ended Atlético's run of 19 straight home wins in all competitions this season – and a 12-match streak of home victories in Europe. However, Berdyev knows that – regardless of whether Diego Simeone chooses to draft an inexperienced team – Rubin's task is far from over against the 2010 and 2012 UEFA Europa League champions.
"We have seen Barcelona and Inter fielding young sides this year, and they were skilful players," he said. "If players have talent, their age is not important. Ambitious young players want to try to prove they deserve to play in the first team. I still would not say there is a favourite. In the first leg we were lucky, but Allah helps those who truly believe in their task. The boys fought and fought to the end."
Rubin have lost just twice in their last 20 European home games, but Atlético may be encouraged to note that both those defeats came in Moscow – where Thursday's match will be staged – and Rubin's Spanish defender Iván Marcano accepts Simeone will not give up the chance of defending the UEFA Europa League title lightly. "Atlético will try their best to turn the result around," said the 25-year-old. "That's the nature of their coach. They will try to score quickly and tip the scales back in their favour."
Simeone, meanwhile, hammered home the point that his side still have hope and will not surrender their crown easily. "The most important thing is that we have 90 minutes to change the result," said the Argentinian. "It will not be easy, but we have not lost hope. In the Europa League we have always been competitive and tomorrow we will show it again. We came here with the desire to win and get the result."
With questions raised about Atlético's ability to deal with the cold facing them at the Stadion Luzhniki, as the mercury is set to dip well below freezing, striker Falcao stresses the desire to get the result will override any discomfort. "I am not afraid of the cold, the will to win is superior to anything else," said the competition's leading scorer of the past two seasons. "On the field you forget everything, we are just going to play. We are in a difficult situation, but the result after one game does not decide the tie – only after two."
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