Qarabag vs Copenhagen – Tuesday 17:00 GMT/18:00 CET at Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium Baku.
Qarabag want to make history and become the first club from Azerbaijan to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. The current Champions League qualification campaign is already the fourth attempt by the exiled club from the Nagorno-Karabakh region to reach the Champions League group stage.
The Azeri, however, have never reached this stage of the competition before and the club coached by Gurban Gurbanov feel that they can finally make the step to reach Europe’s premier competition. Reaching the Champions League would be a massive success not just for the club, but for the entire country especially when one considers that the club has more or less become a memorial to the war in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh region became a disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia has since occupied the territory which meant that Qarabag were no longer able to play their matches at home, but rather in Baku. Nowadays the club is massively funded by the Azeri government, who have understood the propaganda value of a team from the region to play in UEFA competitions.
Whether they can get past Copenhagen remains to be seen, however. The Danish club have plenty of experience in the UEFA Champions League and have participated in the group stage on two occasions. At the same time Copenhagen have failed on four occasions to get to the group stage, and while they are the favourites on this occasion, they will have to make sure not to underestimate a side that in many ways represents the whole of Azerbaijan on this occasion.
Hence, getting a good result away from home on Tuesday will be key as Copenhagen travel the long road to the Caucasus to face Qarabag at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium in Baku.
Qarabag vs Copenhagen – Players to look out for:
Dino Ndlovu #9 – Qarabag
The South African striker Dino Ndlovu was signed by Qarabag last summer from the Cypriot side Anorthosis. The 27-year-old is looking back at a journeyman career that included stints in Israel, South Africa and Cyprus before finally arriving in Azerbaijan. Last season Ndlovu scored ten goals in 23 Premyer Liqasi games for Qarabag and was one of the main reasons for the Azeri club to win the title once again.
William Kvist #6 – Copenhagen
Captain William Kvist is the backbone of the Danish club. The former Stuttgart and Wigan midfielder is both fighter and a player, who can dictate the tempo for the Danish side. Now aged 32-years Kvist is in the twilight of his career, but with his experience of playing in England and Germany is the extended arm of head coach Stale Solbakken on the field.
Qarabag vs Copenhagen – Match Stats
- This is Qarabağ’s fourth UEFA Champions League campaign; in each of the previous three, they were eliminated in the third qualifying round.
- In 2016-17, the Azerbaijani team reached the UEFA Europa League group stage—for the third year in a row—after being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League.
- Qarabag have lost just one of their last eight European home matches (W4 D3), going down 2-1 against ACF Fiorentina on 8 December 2016.
- Copenhagen have won only two of their six Champions League play-off ties, ousting Rosenborg BK on away goals in 2010-11 and APOEL FC 2-1 on aggregate last season. They have lost to APOEL (2009-10), FC Viktoria Plzeň (2011-12), LOSC Lille (2012/13) and Bayer 04 Leverkusen (2014-15).
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Qarabag vs Copenhagen 1-1
Qarabag vs Copenhagen – Possible Lineups
Sehic – Agolli, Guseynov, Sadygov, Medvedev – Michel, Garayev, Richard – Madatov, Ndlovu, Guerrier
Manager: Gurban Gurbanov
Olsen – Bengtsson, Johansson, Lüftner, Ankersen – Kvist, Gregus – Thomsen, Verbic – Sotiriou, Santander
Manager: Stale Solbakken
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at 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 @ManuelVeth.