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Champions League Preview: Qarabag (Atletico Madrid, Group C)

Campbell Finlayson spoke to Qarabag fan @Xaqan_Bayramov ‏ about their chances in the Champions League and the prospect of playing against Atletico Madrid.

As a Qarabag fan, what are your initial thoughts on the draw?

Very tough and challenging rivals for Qarabag. Qarabag would have been luckier, if Anderlecht or Basel had been drawn from the 3rd group but this is the reality we have to face. Everybody in Azerbaijan says we are in the group of death. Nobody has high expectations though.

Do Qarabag and Atletico have any past history and what kind of atmosphere can they expect when they visit the Tofig Bahramov Stadium?

Qarabag and Atletico Madrid do not have a past history and the match on Oct 18, 2017 will be their first meeting ever. But before that match, Tofig Bahramaov stadium will host its first ever CL group stage match between Qarabag and Roma in 27 September 2017. I am quite sure that, the stadium will be full and the fans will be passionate and support the team to help them grab a point from Italians.

Have Qarabag done much transfer business this summer?

This summer Qarabag have made only two singnings; Jakub Rzeznicak from Legia Warsaw and Wilde-Donald Guerrier from Alanyaspor. But Gurbanov, after the second match with Copenhagen, stated that they will reinforce their squad with two signings in order to compete with the European giants in Group C.

How is Gurban Gurbanov likely to set the team up tactically and if all players are fit, what would the starting 11 be?

Gurbanov’s favorite formation is 4-1-2-3. The team generally plays the ball with short passes from the ground and likes to generate attacks with straight balls. Wingers are indispensable elements in Gurbanov’s team. Qarabag usually line up in that format (GK) Sehic- (LB) Agolli, (CB) Rzeznicak, (CB) Badavi Guseynov, (RB) Medvedev-(DMC) Qarayev, (MC) Almeyda, (MC) Michel- (LW) Madatov, (FW) Ndulovu, (RW) Guerrier.

Who is the main player that Atlético will need to stop if they’re going to get a result against Qarabag?

The game is based on Richard Almeyda, whose game vision and play-making skills are above anyone else in the team. My favourite players in that team are Almeyda and Ndulovu, both are potential threats to unlock rival teams’ defensive lines.

What are Qarabag’s expectations in the Champions League this season?

To be honest Qarabag have not got the sufficient capacity to compete with Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Roma, whose budgets are at least tenfold-twentyfold of Qarabag’s. Moreover, to be in that elite competition, showcasing your name and club is far more important than getting results for now. But what makes football the most popular sport in the world is its unpredictability. Qarabag will do their best to grab points from those giants, especially in the home games.

Tell us where you think the four sides will finish in the group?

My guess is that, the group leader will be Atletico Madrid. There will be strong clash among Roma and Chelsea to be positioned in second place and I see the Italian side one step ahead in the qualification race. But at the end, I would end my words with a popular saying on football; The ball is round, the game lasts 90 minute, everything else is pure theory.

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