7 things you should know about FK Qarabağ

Like Celtic, Qarabag squared off against Inter in last season's Europa League. Picture: AFP/Getty
Like Celtic, Qarabag squared off against Inter in last season's Europa League. Picture: AFP/Getty
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IF CELTIC can safely see a passage through Icelandic champions Stjarnan they will face either Qarabağ or Rudar Pljevlja in the next round of the Champions League.

There’s a similar article available on FK Rudar, but first lets look closer at the Azerbaijan Premier League champions.

1) The club play in the capital city Baku, which sits on the edge of the Caspian Sea and has a population of around 2.2 million.

Travelling fans can expect to get a quality plate of food and bottle of beer for less than £10 in a local cafe. The current exchange rate is 61p for every 1 Azerbaijani Manat.

2) Qarabağ play their home matches at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, which doubles up as the home of the Azerbaijan national football team.

The atmosphere can be rather flat in league matches but locals turn out in droves for European ties with an average of just under 18,000 attending last season’s Europa League matches.

The club will soon be moving to a purpose-built stadium.

3) The history of the club ties into tensions in Azerbaijan’s recent past. Qarabağ were founded in Agdam, a town in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Since the late 80s and the gradual break-up of the Soviet Union, the area has been plagued by a ongoing conflict which resulted in violence in the early 1990s and a ceasefire in 1994.

When the violence first began the whole population of Agdam fled and it remains a ghost town to this day. Qarabağ have played their football in Baku since 1993.

4) The club have won the top flight, only formed in 1992, on three occasions, but they were crowned champions in each of the last two campaigns. Last season they also lifted the cup, a competition which they have won on four occasions.

5) Celtic should be wary of the threat posed by the Azerbaijani champions who showed they are no mugs on the European stage.

In fact, they managed what Celtic couldn’t do by defeating Red Bull Salzburg. Qarabağ won the first leg of their Champions League qualifying encounter 2-1 before exiting after a 2-0 loss in the second leg.

6) Qarabağ’s European campaign ended in heartbreaking and baffling fashion when they were on the receiving end of one of the worst refereeing decisions in recent years.

Having come into the game needing to match Dnipro’s result, Qarabağ were still in with a chance as their match with Inter entered injury time.

With 93 minutes on the clock, a cross from the left was knocked out as far as Richard Almeida whose shot from the edge of the area was deflected in via the boot of Inter defender Isaac Donkor. However, the officials adjudged that forward Leroy George was offside.

Looking at the footage, it’s difficult to see what the officials saw. Twice George was close to being offside, however at the initial cross he was behind play and level with the defender, and when the shot came in he was level with the last defender and not interfering with play.

As a result Dnipro joined Inter, who had already won the group, in the knockout stages and Qarabağ were out.

• The footage from the incident can be watched from 9.00 onwards in the embedded video.

7) Celtic will need to keep a close eye on Brazilian striker Reynaldo, who was top scorer in the Azerbaijan Premier League two seasons ago and netted 10 times in a injury-hit campaign last time around.

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