Chikhura vs Altach by Sweem
Chikhura from Georgia will host Altach from Austria in the Europa League Qualifiers. First and foremost, while Chikhura is listed as the home team, the truth is that they are playig 180 kilometers away from their home town Sachkhere, to instead play on the Boris Paichadze Stadium in Tbilisi - the national arena. Their own local stadium can fit around 2000 spectators, while the national stadium is massive (55,000) and has a track field around the pitch, making it feel very distant from the action. That being said, the home advantage is minimal.
Chikhura have conceded goals in 9 out of their last 10 matches, and this is versus domestic opposition of much weaker quality than their Austrian opponents Altach. Offensively, Chikhura have also failed to score in half of these matches, often leaving the field empty handed. They are however one of the most goal-involved teams in Georgia, much due to their leaky defense, and occasional scoring. 13 out of 18 matches in Erovnuli Liga have finished with three goals or more, which is a ratio of 72%.
Coach Soso Pruidze is a long time coach for Chikhura, being in charge since 2008 and have coached 12 European matches with the team, record being 4-4-4. Their most significant result was to knock out Bursasporon penalties in 2014.
Who are Chikhura today then? It is a team consisting of very experienced Georgian players, many domestic veterans. Only their Bosnian goalkeeper is somewhat interesting, as the only foreigner in the team. Their average squad age is 29 years, so nearly all of them are past their prime, and majority have not played professionally outside Georgia, but only made their name domestically. Chikhura certainly lack pace and flair, but up front they rely on 33 year old Dimitri Tatanashvili who has been a solid striker in Georgia for a long time with a proven scoring record. It is a group who have played together for a long time, and many veterans have been in the club for many years. Center back captain Shota Kashia has been playing for big clubs in Georgia (Dila and Dinamo Tbilisi) while veteran midfielder Denis Dobrovolski is now 31 years of age. They like to play with a straight 4 defense, with two holding midfielders.
After a poor period in the Austrian league with four straight losses, Altach are arriving to Georgia with a new coach, Klaus Schmidt who have been in charge for 3 weeks. This will be his first official game with Altach, so the players will certainly want to prove that they belong in his plan. Coach Klaus Schmidt however already guided his side to victory in a friendly versus St Gallen, with 2-3. He admitted it was a great start
- "I was especially happy to see the comittment from the squad, and of course it was also satisfying to start with a victory for me personally" he said after that match.
It is expected to see a continued motivated Altach team under their new coach. They currently sit on fourth place in Austria, just behind Sturm Graz, Austria Vienna and Salzburg.
The visitors are coming from a tough period domestically but seem to have received a positive injection after the coach change, with a well needed confidence boost. Many players will try to impress and take no unnecessary risks, and look for perfection in their game since it is the first European game for both sides. Goals are common in Chikhura's matches, and certainly Altach possess a lot more internationally sharp players with speed and flair. There is no home advantage to consider, so on a rather neutral setting, Altach can score once, twice or even three times on this Georgian side who are much older and slower on several positions. Despite my love for Georgian teams and football, I expect an away victory.