Exultant Socceroos defender Milos Degenek has declared it “means the world” to be competing in a second successive UEFA Champions League campaign, but admits Red Star Belgrade’s group stage draw is daunting.
The 1991 European Cup winners face the might of Bayern Munich, last season’s finalists Tottenham and Greek champions Olympiakos in what Degenek views a chance to showcase the qualities of the club rather than harboring tangible hopes of progressing to the knock out stages.
Having scored in the first leg of the qualifier against Young Boys which saw Red Star through on away goals, Degenek, 25, has already made his mark just weeks after returning on loan from a six-month stint with Saudi giants Al Hilal.
“For me, it’s a fantastic draw and I’m stoked that we got to draw like this,” Degenek told The World Game.
“We’re playing against the Champions League finalists in Tottenham and we did the same before against Liverpool last time round (with Red Star upsetting the Reds 2-0 in the home leg) and of course they went on to to win it.
“We’ve got Byam Munich, who are one of the biggest clubs in Europe and we play against Olympiakos who are a type of neighbour club of ours with their supporter base and things like that.”
“When you look at it, we can’t expect to be first or second.
“But it’s a group where you can push and achieve things and cause an upset, which is what we want to do.
“It’s unbelievable to be playing against the best again.”
Last season’s draw was even more onerous, pitching Red Star against Liverpool, Paris St-Germain and Napoli, with with the Serbian outliers taking four points to prop up the group.
Degenek was pivotal in them even being there, his two assists helpIng Red Star overturn a two-goal deficit against Red Bull Salzburg to qualify.
It’s his third Champions League across two continents in a single year after achieving the same feat with Al Hilal in the ACL, but it’s on Europe’s paramount stage where he hopes to make the loudest statement.
With Red Star traveling to Germany to face Bayern in their Group B opener on September 19, Degenek added: “It means the world to be involved at this level again and it gives me a lot of confidence.
“I’m obviously looking forward to it and the excitement is immense.
“This is what footballers dream of and it’s going to help me improve my game and also help me with the national team.
“I want to become a better player and more of a leader in the group, so it’s exciting times ahead.”