UCL-Quali: Rapid look to lay down an early marker
The destination for our team on Tuesday morning was Zagreb, and the flight from Vienna to the Croatian capital took less than 45 minutes once the players and staff set off. After that journey of no more than a stone’s throw, the team acclimatised to Croatia under the carefully maintained guidance of the relevant COVID rules; meaning a separate floor in the hotel, our own personnel manning the entrances and exits, and the bus waiting close to the front door of the city-centre accommodation.
Late on Tuesday afternoon that very bus took the team to the Kranjčevićeva Stadium, the base of our first opponents of the season, and current Champions League qualification rivals; NK Lokomitiva Zagreb. After a 6-0 derby demolition at the hands of Dinamo and a 1-0 victory over HNK Rijeka, it's hard to put a finger on what their form really means, but one thing's for sure: Rapid is ready!
"We are well prepared and we’ve researched Lok Zagreb in a lot of detail", said head coach Didi Kühbauer on Tuesday evening ahead of the final training session. The preparation and training drills in the build up to Wednesday's game (Kick-off 19:00pm, shown live on ORF1 and in the SK Rapid Live Ticker) have been undertaken with full concentration and focus, but also with due respect: "They're a strong opponent, but hopefully we have prepared well enough to go through to the next round." Normally, around 8,000 fans would fit into LOK’s rustic stadium, but they will be the only missing ingredient in the end once things get underway. For Dejan Ljubicic, Rapid’s away trip has taken him to a familiar environment, and he's thrown himself into the action: “I have a lot of friends in Zagreb, I actually visit Zagreb a lot myself, so I’m really happy that I can play here with Rapid.” Friends in Zagreb or none, concentration was the key point: “That’s not what it’s about right now though, we definitely want to advance on Wednesday, and we’ll give it everything we can to achieve that.”
UEFA Champions League, 2nd qualifying round:
NK Lokomotiva Zagreb - SK Rapid
Wednesday, August 26th
Kick-off: 19:00 o'clock
Photos: GEPA Pictures.