Manuel Veth –
Tofiq Bahramov Stadium (capacity 31,200)
Dalga Stadium (capacity 6,500 confirmed for match against Liberec)
Note: The clubs Azersun Stadium has not been approved for Europa League football.
Qarabag Europa League Preview Club Details
Qarabağ’s history is a poignant and tragic one, where their European escapes are a welcome highlight on an otherwise dark backdrop. Exiled from their home city of Agdam since 1993 due to the vicious Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, they have played their ‘home’ matches Baku’s the national stadium, named after the infamous moustached linesman in the 1966 World Cup Final.
Today Agdam is an eerie ghost town, after its 40,000 population either fled or were killed in a pre-emptive strike by Armenian and Karabakh forces that decimated the city. The team is the only remnant left, and despite relocating to the capital, they have shone brightly in recent years. Their first appearance in Europe came in the first ever staging of the Europa League in 2009-10, while domestically they have won the last two Azeri Premier League titles.
Brazilian duo Reynaldo and Richard are the star turns, having both signed three seasons ago. The former has scored 44 goals in between 2013 and 2015, but struggled a bit with injuries last season, and only managed five goals in 14 league matches. Nonetheless, Reynaldo still possesses the dangerous combination of a powerful shot, impetuous confidence and a magical touch. Also look out for the 27-year-old Brazilian winger Richard, who has now entered the club’s all time scoring list with 31 goals in 121 league games.
Gurban Gurbanov has been in charge for over eight years, and has an impressive record in charge having won just over half his matches. His talisman Reynaldo, Qarabağ’s all-time second highest goal scorer, behind legendary striker Mushfig Huseynov, usually starts as the mobile lone striker, often in front of a five man midfield away from home, with a lightning-quick counter—attacking style designed to unsettle opponents who are unfamiliar either them.
Know your Oligarch:
Taher Gozel the Turkish vice president of Azersun, Azerbaijan’s premier food production company, is Qarabağ’s vice president. His company bailed the club out at the turn of the millennium after providing significant sponsorship funds, and continue to broadcast their name across the front of the shirts. He has even appeared on screen, in a documentary promoting Azeri business and in a film due out this year focusing on the team itself. Recently his company build a new 5,800 seat stadium on the outskirts of Baku. The Azersun Arena is, however, deemed to small for international football, and the club will therefore play in the national stadium.
Last season Qarabağ were drawn faced RSC Anderlecht, AS Monaco FC, and Tottenham Hotspur, in the Europa League group stage. The Azeri finished the group stage in fourth, and last place.
İlk matçda qonağımız Çexiya tәmsilçisi "Slovan Liberec" olacaq.
15 sentyabr. pic.twitter.com/6UO4ZSlFfl
— Qarabağ FK (@FK_Qarabagh) August 26, 2016
A faith that seems likely again this season, as the club has been drawn into a group with ACF Fiorentina, FC Slovan Liberec, and PAOK FC. Of the three opponents the Italian side ACF Fiorentina will be the most difficult opponent. Indeed the Serie A side is expected to boss the group, and emerge as group winners. Behind Fiorentina the Greek side PAOK FC, which is owned by the Russian oligarch Ivan Savvidis, will likely finish second.
What to expect:
Qarabağ will most likely battle the Czech side Slovan Liberec for the third position. Both PAOK and Fiorentina have plenty of experience in international football, and both should land easy victories against Qarabağ.
Futbolgrad prediction: 4th place
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Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and a writer for Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.