Lebogang Phiri has high Europa League hopes with Brondby ahead of Panathinaikos clash
Posted: 17 August 2016 Time: 13:39
Lebogang Phiri feels Brondby are heading towards something special as they prepare to host Panathinaikos in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League playoff qualifier tomorrow.
Brondby are traditionally one of the top sides in Denmark but have fallen on hard times of late, with financial woes leading to near relegation a few seasons ago.
But now that things have stabilised in the boardroom, Phiri says “the glory days” are not far off.
"I came to a historic club,” Phiri told BT. “Their history was so impressive that I had expected much greater things [by now]. But I came at a difficult time when we were coming down and things were difficult financially.
“I had always hoped that it would get better, and now I think we are heading back to the golden days that Brondby once had. We are living up to the expectations I had when I came to the club.
"It’s the best moment for the team in the time I've been here. We've never hit a higher level. The mood in the team makes our performances better and better. Everybody is focused and ready to give his right arm for his teammates.”
Phiri feels the improvement in fortunes has come with the appointment of German coach Alexander Zorniger, previously with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga.
"Zorniger must get all the credit for the change that has happened. He knows what he wants and he gets the best out of us players because he gives us freedom. The freedom we lacked previously. The freedom to play and even to take decisions on the field.
"Our mental state is very strong, because we have a manager who knows what he wants. Therefore, we follow all his wishes. It means that we are all on the same page and ready for whatever is waiting around the next corner.”
Phiri was influential when Brondby surprised Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in the last round of Europa League qualifiers and says he expects a tougher challenge from Greek giants Panathinaikos. He is targeting a home win to defend in the second leg in Athens.
“They are a super strong opponent and we needed a win to go to Athens with the right mind-set and confidence,” Phiri says. “We hope to come home with a good result, but it will be a difficult game. It's always a challenge to play away in Europe.”