Kukesi vs Qarabag
Kukesi made it dramatic against Valletta from Malta, when a 84 minute strike by Irakli Dzaria led to an equalizing 1-1 goal. Due to the goal, Kukesi qualified on away goals. Surely, it was more dramatic than necessary but the Albanians did not capitilize on their home advantage against the Maltese side, after leaving it goalless at home. It was not convincing overall, and the Maltese side could absolutely have qualified with some margins. Instead, the Albanians progressed after last minute heroics.
Squad wise, they have experienced a big turnover with 13 players arriving, and 8 players leaving. The most significant loss is when top scorer Sindrit Guri (34/20) left the club for Oostende. On the more interesting side, Brazilian right back William Cordeiro joined from Oeste. Other than that, Kukesi has expanded their squad and added some depth. It is still an unexperienced team in European competitions who are looking to fill the void from their goal scoring striker from last season.
Prior to facing Qarabag, Kukesi are yet to win a match. Their last results include 0-4 loss against Maribor, 0-0 versus Valletta, and once again a 1-1 draw against the same opponents. Having scored one goal in the last 3 matches, they will have to step up if proceeding should be possible.
Qarabag is a more experienced team in these conditions, with over 90 competitive matches in European level, including a recent group stage participation of Champions League as early as 2017. They have added to the squad, with midfielder Simeon Slavchev joining from Sporting Lisbon and winger Abdellah Zoubir joining from Lens on a €1 million transfer. Moreover, Croatian attacker Filip Ozobic joined from rivals, Gabala.
It is a squad with international experience in all areas of the field, and a coach who has served them long term, naley Gurban Gurbanov who is seen as the most successful coach from Azerbaijan. He is very possession based, influenced by the famous tiki-taka style. Their European journey started with a victory in Slovenia, when Olimpija Ljubljana was defeated 0-1 away, and a goalless draw at home. Qarabag showed patience and played a very clever away game. To be drawn against Kukesi should be seen very positive, which must be seen as an easier draw than Olimpija.
Attacking midfielder Dani Quintana is likely to miss the match.
Qarabag is not only more experienced on every position, but also more clever and skillfull. They beat the Slovenian champions, and should easily pass Kukesi the same way, perhaps with more dominance. They will look for an away goal or two, and eventually close the game on home soil. The value is strongly on the visitors.
Kukesi vs Qarabag prediction
Qarabag Wins @ 1.99 with Pinnacle