Sheriff vs Qarabag – Thursday, August 23, 18:00 BST/19:00 CEST – Stadionul Sheriff, Tiraspol, Moldova
After Qarabag were eliminated in the Champions League playoffs by BATE, the Azeri team are now once again matched up against a post-Soviet team. Furthermore, once again it is a matchup without any Soviet history.
Sheriff Tiraspol were founded in 1997 by a corporation that has its foundation in the security business. Nowadays Sheriff, however, owns petrol stations, supermarkets, TV stations and several other businesses in the semi-independent Republic of Transnistria.
The football club has become somewhat of a champion of Transnistrian independence in the last few years. Despite being the most successful club in Moldova, Sheriff have won 16 national championships and nine Moldovan Cups; Sheriff fans often display Russian fans and Soviet memorabilia when playing abroad.
Transnistria has strived to become an independent nation, or even part of Russia, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Nowadays it acts as a state within a state and even though Sheriff play in the Moldovan National Division and are one of the best run teams in the country – Transnistria feels in many ways like a museum dedicated to the former Soviet Union.
Fate will have it that the club that Sheriff are playing in this round also represents a region under dispute. Qarabag were founded in Agdam, which is located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region occupied by Armenia.
Qarabag’s role, therefore, is complicated. The most successful club in Azerbaijan today Qarabag FK acts both as a memorial to the lost Nagorno-Karabakh region but also as a soft-power tool for the Azeri government.
As a result, Qarabag are lavishly funded and equipped with a brand new football stadium on the outskirts of Baku. With funds to their disposal, Qarabag managed to qualify for the Champions League group stage last season.
This year, however, they were eliminated by BATE in the third round of Champions League qualifying. Now both clubs are looking for the consolation prize, which is UEL football, and with both teams well funded, by the standards of post-Soviet football, this is very much a 50/50 match that could ultimately be decided on away goals.
Sheriff vs Qarabag – Players to look out for:
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.
#1 – Qarabag
Hannes Halldórsson was part of Iceland’s World Cup squad this summer. Following the tournament, the keeper remained in the post-Soviet space joining Qarabag as the new number one keeper. Like many Iceland players, Halldórsson is not just famous as a football player – the keeper has also directed films in the past amongst other things Iceland’s video for their entry to the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.
Sheriff vs Qarabag – Match Stats
- Sheriff are the champions of Moldova
- Qarabağ won the 2017/18 title in Azerbaijan
- Qarabağ beat Sheriff 2-1agg in 2017/18 #UCL qualifying
- Sheriff unbeaten in seven UEFA home games (W3 D4)
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Sheriff vs Qarabag – 3-1
Sheriff vs Qarabag – Lineups
Pascenco – Cristiano, Kulusić, Posmac, Susić – Kendysh, Oancea, Anton – Badibanga, Kamara, Rodrigues
Head Coach: Goran Sablić
Halldórsson – Guerrier, Guseynov, Sadygov, Medvedev – Slavchev, Garayev – Zoubir, Michel, Delarge – Emeghara
Head Coach: Gurban Gurbanov
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.