Crvena Zvezda will be hoping for more celebrations this season (©uefa.com)
Belgrade duo set for derby decider
Friday, 22 April 2005
By Aleksandar Boskovic
Saturday's 124th Belgrade derby between FK Crvena Zvezda and FK Partizan is a pivotal meeting that could decide the Serbo-Montenegrin title race.
Dominant campaignPartizan lead the way after an exceptional campaign that has seen them score more goals than any other team, concede fewer and fail to win just two of their 23 matches - both draws. With such a record, the fact Crvena Zvezda are even in contention is testament to the 1991 European champions' own good form.
'Red Star' are five points adrift, having themselves lost just once all season, but their coach Ratko Dostanic knows the home side must defeat their arch-rivals if they are to regain the title. "We must win," he said. "The derby is our big chance to move within two points of Partizan."
Dostanic, without injured defender Bojan Miladinovic on Saturday, admits that even with a victory, his team will still need their opponents to falter elsewhere - yet he is confident they are in the right condition to up the pressure. "I believe we can win," Dostanic said. "My players have hit their best form at just the right time."
History is certainly on Crvena Zvezda's side. Since the clubs' first derby in January 1947, they have lost just ten of 61 home encounters, winning 32. Their stadium Marakana is an intimidating place, and a capacity 50,000 crowd is expected at the weekend, a remarkable figure given the First League average is around 1,500.
Almost 30,000 squeezed into Partizan's ground in October when the sides drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture, and Partizan coach Vladimir Vermezovic knows a repeat result will see his team take a major step towards their 19th league championship - Crvena Zvezda have 23. "The current five-point gap is not enough to give us peace of mind but I believe we have the talent and courage to make this final step," he said.
Buoyed by Boya
"We have had a brilliant season, with fantastic results in the UEFA Cup, but the domestic title was always our target." Vermezovic is boosted by Pierre Boya's return from an ankle injury and the Cameroonian forward could help end Crvena Zvezda hopes. If so, the red-and-whites will get an early chance of revenge when the clubs meet again in a Serbo-Montenegrin Cup semi-final in May.
Thanks guys for pointing that little mistake buy UEFA site...Zvezdara stadium?