Loko eager to make final step to Europa League playoffs

Lokomotiv have everything in their hands to book a place in the knock-out stage, as they host Austria’s Sturm. A draw will do for the Muscovites in their last European home match this year on Thursday.

­Lokomotiv suffered only one defeat in four matches of the Europa League, in a clash against Anderlecht, and comfortably sit second in their Group L, three points behind the Belgian side.

The hosts can book their place in the knockout stage in the upcoming match against third-placed Sturm from Graz.

“We have a very strong will to get to the pitch on Thursday and to win, so that we can be positive about our future in the Europa League,”
Jose Couceiro, Lokomotiv coach, said. “I want to remind you that Lokomotiv alongside Rubin and Zenit are the only three teams still participating in the Premier League, the Russian Cup and European competitions.”

Lokomotiv look to close the door for Sturm and to repeat their success in the opening matchday, where Victor Obinna and Dmitri Sychev netted goals in a two-minute spell in the first half. That saw the Railway Men coming from behind to clinch a 2-1 away win.

“There are no concerns about the match,” Denis Glushakov, Lokomotiv’s midfielder, said. “There is no snow. The weather is good and the pitch is in good condition. So we are eager to win our last home match.”

However, it’s going to be a tough challenge for Lokomotiv as five key players are still injured. And the Moscow side suffered two straight defeats in the domestic league, being edged by rivals Spartak and Zenit.

“It always happens in football,”
Roman Shishkin, a Lokomotiv defender, said. “When you’re on a good run everyone is happy. And you hear only positive comments. But as soon as you start losing everything is vice versa. And manager is blamed for everything. But I’m confident that our team is ready for the clash.”

Sturm Graz have outside hopes of reaching the knock-out stage as – in this match alone – the Austrian side needs two goals and victory to keep their dreams alive, while Lokomotiv can secure their place in the Round of 32, with just a point from their last home match this year.

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