Qarabag vs Sheriff – Thursday, August 29, 18:00 BST/19:00 CEST – Tofig Bahramov Republican stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan
After reaching the group stage of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League and the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Qarabag’s development is about to take a major hit. Consistently reaching the group stage of European competitions has been identified as the key for Qarabag to develop as a post-Soviet top club.
Qarabag reached the third round of Champions League qualification, eliminating Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia) and FK Kukësi (Albania) but were then knocked out by BATE Borisov in the third round. As a result, Qarabag were relegated to the Europa League playoffs were after a 1-0 defeat away against Sheriff now need a perfect match to progress.
Exiled from Agdam, which is located in the from Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region, Qarabag are the last Azeri club left in European competitions this season. In the last few seasons, Azeri football had at least one or two clubs competing in the group stages of UEFA competitions and while Azerbaijan would remain the pre-eminent football force in the Caucasus major European ambitions would be stifled should no club reach the group stages this year.
Sheriff Tiraspol, in the meantime, are in the driver’s seat after Rifet Kapic scored for the Moldovan champions in the first leg. That eighth-minute strike is the only thing that separates the two teams going into the second leg but European arithmetics mean that Qarabag would have to win with a two-goal differential should Sheriff score on the road.
Success in the playoffs would mean a second consecutive return for Sheriff to the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. The 16 times Moldovan champions finished third in the UEFA Europa League Group F last season.
Like it is the case for Qarabag return to group stage football would be an important step in the development of the Sheriff Football Club. Already one of the best run teams in the post-Soviet space Sheriff are an ambitious club that sees itself as club that unnearthes talents to sell them on with a profit but at the same time becomes a pre-eminent force in the region.
Qarabag vs Sheriff – Players to look out for:
#11 – Qarabag
21-year-old Mahir Madatov continues his stellar development at Qarabag. The talented forward scored two goals in Qarabag’s 2-0 victory over FC Sebail in the Premyer Liqasi. The talented winger also had seven goals and four assists in 23 league games last season and will be a key player in Qarabag’s attempt to overturn the first leg deficit.
Alhaji Kamara #45 – Sheriff
Alhaji Kamara is a weapon up front. The striker from Sierra Leone has scored eight goals in eight Divizia Nationala games this season. The 24-year-old was signed from the Saudi Arabia Professional League side Al-Taawon this February and right away had an impact at this new club. Sheriff have always been good at identifying talent from South America and Africa with an eye to sell players on to bigger teams in the region or even Western Europe.
Qarabag vs Sheriff – Match Stats
- Sheriff defending 1-0 lead from first leg
- Qarabağ beat Sheriff in 2017/18 #UCL qualifying
- Group stage draw is live on 31 August
- Qarabağ’s last six UEFA home games: W1 D2 L3
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Qarabag vs Sheriff – 2-1
Qarabag vs Sheriff – Lineups
Vagner – Guerrier, Guseynov, Sadygov, Medvedev – Slavchev, Garayev – Zoubir, Michel, Madatov – Emeghara
Head Coach: Gurban Gurbanov
Pascenco – Cristiano, Kulusić, Posmac, Susić – Kendysh, Oancea, Anton – Badibanga, Kamara, Rodrigues
Head Coach: Goran Sablić
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds 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 is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.