Qarabag vs Samtredia by Sweem
Samtredia is a club who features in Champions League qualifiers for the first time, as they managed to interrupt the dominance of Dinamo Tbilisi and won the Erovnuli Liga last season, which now gives them a chance to make their mark on the bigger scene. Their league win did not really reflect their dominance, because the main competitors Dinamo Tbilisi was rebuilding, while Chikhura were competitive at the time, but it was a generally low 'episode' of Erovnuli Liga. Anyhow, Samtredia took advantage and proven to be the strongest team.
Coach Giorgi Testsadze is the longest serving coach in the club's history, being appointed in July 2015, and is now in his second year. He has been successful with Samtredia, and average 2,02 scored goals per match during his time in charge, but also concede 1,05 goals on average. These numbers are good domestically, as Samtredia have managed to establish themselves as a competitor for the Georgian title.
They are a very 'domestic' team though, much like many Georgian clubs - not having many foreign players (only 1) and mainly relying on veteran Georgian players, with the addition of younger talents and proven players at national level.
Key players in this team is 28 year old winger Davit Razhamashvili, and veteran 32 year old captain, Giorgi Datunaishvili on the defensive midfield role. Guram Samushia was a promising player when he was younger as a 16-17 year old, but now he is 22 and have ended up in Samtredia - but he remains a good player for Georgian standards. Overall, it is a team that is very typical and strategically built, basically the idea has been to gather experienced domestic players, and add some decent younger players. It is enough in Georgia, but when it comes to Europe, it should be clear how far away that quality really is.
They have added striker Nikoloz Sabanadze (11/3), who arrived from league rivals Torpedo Kutaisi. But the most significant signing is Bacar Baldé, a left back who arrived from Mirandela in Portugal. As for departures, they have released forward Davit Chagelishvili (15/3) and winger Konstantin Belov (8/0), who mainly acted as rotation players.
Qarabag is a much more established side, and becoming more well known after their regular participation in Europe, and they have also managed to earn a very solid home reputation after defeating some European quality sides, and reaching the group stages of Europa League. Coach Gurban Gurbanov was appointed in 2008, and it turned out to be something that would be revolutionary for Azerbaijani football.
Coach Gurbanov introduced an offensive possession based style of play, and put effort on nurturing domestic talents instead of continuing the huge intake of foreign players. In other words, they are becoming a more modern team, adapting to the 'future' football, based on individual quality, speed and possession.
They have acquired some experience this season, after welcoming 30-year old center back Jakub Rzezniczak from Legia, with 5 Champions League appearances, and keeper Anton Kanibolotsky from Shakthar Donetsk. The more significant signing was winger Donald Guerrier from Alanyaspor, who played 24 matches in Super Lig last season. Also, right back Abbas Huseynov was brought in from Inter Baku, and the 22 year old is seen as a promising prospect.
At Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, there are no easy victories, not even for more estbalished football teams. Samtredia is nowhere near an established competitive team, compared to their opponents. I do see Samtredia defending, for a long period of time, and having under 40% possession, so it comes down to the efficiency of Qarabag, and they should be able to win by a solid margin, and get at least two or three balls past Samtredia, who are new to these type of games (internationally), and the Baku based side should take them for a ride and show their superiority.