S. Vrevenas: "This is the first time I will train a team in the Champions League" © Pauliaus Židonio

The football club "Panevėžys" will play their first match in the UEFA Champions League qualification on July 9. The strongest team from last season in Lithuania will host the 2023 champions of Finland, Helsinki HJK.

Before the match, "Panevėžys" head coach Stijn Vreven evaluated the opponent's abilities, emphasizing that they are a fully strong team.

"We will play against a good opponent, who has played more Champions League matches than us, they are used to it. If you believe, everything is possible in football thanks to desire, fighting spirit, and quality on the field - we can reach the next stage, why not, it's football, nothing is impossible.

HJK - the strongest club in the country, holding high positions in their league, with a lot of quality. They are a real football team, with a dominant style of play. They run everywhere, have individual qualities, as well as a good fighting spirit - individual qualities in attack and experience in defense," said the Belgian who took over the helm of the capital club this year.

For S. Vreven, the debut in the Champions League qualification matches will be a memorable experience: "This is my 16th year as a head coach - I have had the opportunity to train teams in transitional matches, international competitions. This is the first time I will coach a team in the Champions League, so I am really excited about it. I am not nervous, but I am looking forward to the match, it is a fantastic opportunity to show as a team, as a coach, and as a club that we have quality."

Toni Korkeakunnas, the coach of the HJK team who visited Lithuania for the first time, also shared his thoughts before the training session at the "Panevėžys" stadium.

"We are here to start European competitions. The last three years have been very successful for our club, we were in the group stage of the Europa League and Conference League - this is our goal and it starts here. We respect the opponent, but of course, we are not afraid of anything, we have a plan for the match, we have analyzed the opponent. We know that "Panevėžys" has quality players, we have to give our best to achieve a good result here and make it easier to play at home."

"Panevėžys" team - with a good structure, you can see attacking and defending qualities, what the coaches are planning. It is a well-organized team, with individually strong players, which is typical of champions," said the Finn who returned to the Helsinki team's helm this year.

Last week, the leaders of the Finnish championship suffered a 0:3 defeat away to the Tampere "Ilves" team.

"I have been here for eight games, I arrived in the middle of the season, we collected 16 points in those eight games, which is enough to win the championship. When you start a new process, it is not always a progressive line upward. Sometimes you get bad results, but I am not overly worried," said T. Korkeakunnas. - It was like a wake-up call for us because we had won four games earlier and most of the team was in the national team for a month. It was a good reminder that we have to be ready for all matches, both in the local championship and in Europe. That defeat even motivated us more, we prepared very well for these matches."

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