Stankovic: “OPAP Arena has the experience for the AEK-Kazan championship”

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An interview with the Austrian Kicker was given by Chisan Stankovic talking about her effort AEK to defend her title. The goalkeeper of “Union” also referred to his injury, his compatriot, Ljubicic, but also the capital of the national team. The interview in detail:

AEK, along with PAOK, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, are in a four-way battle for the title. Why is the Greek league so exciting this year and what makes you positive that you will defend the title?

“It was so close between us and Panathinaikos last year. This year four teams are fighting for the title. With six races to go, there is a difference of just four points between first and fourth place. I believe that the championship will be decided in the last matchday. All teams are on the same level, both competitively and financially. That’s another reason it’s so exciting this year. We have the advantage of being in the same situation as last year and we have the experience. We know this is important.”

Last year you were second choice in the championship and although your “rival” Giorgos Athanasiadis is still in the team, you are a key player. How difficult is it to fight for the eleven in AEK?

“Nothing is given to you. Last year I started the season as a starter, but then I couldn’t play because of the coronavirus and I lost my place, because during this time Athanasiadis did well. Last summer I fought a lot for my place in the preparation.”

Due to your injury, which was not known what you have, you were left out. This also happened with the previous injury you had. Is there a specific reason the nature of the injury is being kept secret?

“I don’t hide that I have the same injury as last time. It’s the adductor again, but this time it’s the left, not the right. Whether it is announced or not is a team decision. I haven’t had many muscle injuries until now. In Salzburg I had a bruised thigh, but this year unfortunately it happened to me twice. The second time in particular was very unfortunate because it happened on a change of direction. The first time I caused the injury, as I played until the end, despite the problem.”

The kicker was on the field on Sunday for the home game against PAOK. The scenery was spectacular. You’ve played at Anfield, Signal Iduna Park in your career, but is Greece in another league, level of… intensity?

“It’s a completely different passion, I think it’s a real cauldron here. When you play away from home, it can be an unpleasant cauldron, the atmosphere literally oppresses you. It is clearly a big advantage for the home team. But we are used to playing elsewhere where a similar atmosphere prevails, against Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, PAOK – when you play in Greece, there are so many derbies that you get used to. But it’s definitely a big difference for teams from abroad.”

Let’s stick to the fans: There have been repeated incidents of violence in Greece in recent years. Does the country have a problem with this?

“The fans here are very passionate and give everything for the team. They love their team. This is something that people in Austria might not understand how they work here. There is a special connection with the team everywhere. I don’t know if there is a problem with the fans. In December there was an incident in a volleyball match between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. The other groups were unrelated. Nevertheless, the government took action and eventually punished everyone. We then had to play without spectators for two months. But it was the government’s decision and it had to be accepted.”

The European Championship will start in Germany in a few weeks. A year ago you said that you didn’t employ the federal coach if you weren’t playing. You are now the main goalkeeper of your team. Is your previous statement valid?

“Ultimately, the federal coach decides whether to call me or not. I can only bring my performance with the team. If the coach calls me and thinks he needs me, I’m available. It’s clear that I want to play again with Austria.”

Has the Austrian federation contacted you lately?

“Not immediately, but I’m still in touch with goalkeeping coach Mikael Gspurning, we communicate via WhatsApp from time to time. He also played in Greece. He knows what it’s like and always asks me how I’m doing.”

How do you assess the competition for the goalkeeper position in the national team?

“There won’t be a fight for the Euro, because I think Alexander Slager will be a key player. He worked very hard and did well in the qualifiers. There is nothing to change. Everything is open. A lot can happen between now and the European Championship.”

Austria will play France, Netherlands and Poland. How hard will it be to survive in this group?

“I think it is by far the most difficult group in the Euros. With France and Austria having top players, the Dutch are always good and the Poles are always nasty. Clearly, the goal should be to last in the group, even if it gets really, really hard. However, Austria have shown many times that they can beat the big players and with Ralf Ranging’s playing style in the team, they are always dangerous, especially for the bigger teams.”

Unlike Austria, Greece will not be in the Euro. In the playoffs, he failed against Georgia. How great was the disillusionment in the country?

“Giants. One matchday in the Greek league was postponed for the play-off games, so that the national team could prepare better. But then they were eliminated in bitter fashion on penalties. Participation in the Euro would be very important, to rekindle the euphoria. Not only in the teams, but also in the National team”.

The Greeks are ahead of Austria in one thing: in 2004 they won the Euro. Does this triumph still haunt the country?

“It’s been 20 years (laughs). But a title like this sticks in your memory forever. The day they became European champions is celebrated every year. No one in Greece will ever forget it. From what I understand, they admire the success coach, Otto Rehagel. Generally in Greece, players and coaches are highly regarded. If you give everything for the team and the country, they will never forget you.”

Robert Ljubicic, another player with an Austrian background, moved to AEK in the winter. The team paid 4 million euros to Dinamo Zagreb for the transfer. What impressions has it left so far?

“His transfer was a surprise. It closed on the last day of transfers and everything happened very quickly. But he is very happy to be here, because he is a very good player and he can help us. He is a box to box midfielder who always has his chances to score. He will be a very important player in the future.”

However, he hasn’t been able to play much yet. Why is this happening; Does Matias Almeida demand patience from his players?

“He’s a new addition and it’s hard to come into a team that won the double last year. The coach prepares Robert carefully. He himself said that the pace here is faster than Dynamo. The pace is faster than Rapid. The games here are much more difficult than in Austria or Croatia. It takes some getting used to. And when you think about derbies, they are always very difficult.”

Source: Sport Fm

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