Lokomotiv head coach Vadim Abramov vowed that his side would overcome two runners-up finishes and a depleted squad ahead of Wednesday’s Uzbekistan Cup final against Bunyodkor.
The Tashkent side fell 2-1 to their derby rivals in March’s Super Cup, but in the Uzbekistan Pro Football League (UzPFL) finished comfortably above them in second place behind champions Pakhtakor.
“There were many reasons we couldn’t win [the league] or the Super Cup,” the former Uzbekistan manager told reporters. “My team is ready; some players are injured but I have 18 ready for tomorrow.”
He went on to criticize the Uzbekistan Football Federation’s (UFF) decision to hold the game in Almalyk City: “We wanted to play the final in Tashkent because both teams are from there. But the [UFF] decided to play in Almalyk. We respect their decision; if they tell us we’ll play in Paris then we must go to France.”
The match will be officiated by an all-South Korean officiating team led by Kim Dong-jin, who among other matches has officiated two AFC Cup finals and participated in the 2014 World Cup. That too did not escape Abramov’s notice.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to invite referees from other countries,” the 52-year-old lamented, “because we have many good officials like [four-time AFC Referee of the Year] Ravshan Irmatov. But it’s not a problem. My duty is to prepare the team to win the game.”
Opponents Bunyodkor, who finished the UzPFL season in a disappointing fourth place, will be looking to defend their Cup title and earn direct qualification to the 2015 AFC Champions League. The loser of the match, wich kicks off at 17:00 local time (GMT +5) at the Almalyk Arena, will join FC Nasaf as one of two Uzbek participants in the ACL playoffs.
“Tomorrow’s a big day for everybody,” manager Sergei Lushan said at his pre-match press conference. “Four days ago we lost to Pakhtakor, but we’ve already forgotten about that result.
“We played very good football for 70 minutes, but in this game you’re punished for your mistakes. We’re ready for the final.”
Captain Khayrullo Karimov added: “The final is just another game, our opponent doesn’t matter. Lokomotiv are a very good team, and we know each other well. I think it will be a good battle, but we need to win the cup.”