AFTER Aberdeen’s impressive 5-2 aggregate win over Croatian outfit HNK Rijeka, the Dons will now face a gruelling 10,000-mile round trip to Kazakhstan, to take on FC Kairat, who finished third in last year’s Kazakhstan Premier League.
Here’s a closer look at FC Kairat ahead of their clash with Aberdeen...
1. One player Aberdeen will need to keep an eye on is top scorer Gerard Gohou. The Ivorian has scored 30 goals in 33 appearances for Kairat since joining in June 2014.
Kairat have also just signed Ukrainian international Antaloiy Tymoshchuk, who has had spells with Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg and Bayern Munich.
Kairat can also count Kazakhstan internationals Zhambyl Kukeyev, Mark Gorman and Bauyrzhan Islamkhan, as well as ex-Barcelona B forward Sito Riera among their squad.
2. FC Kairat were the first Soviet team to win a European Cup. In 1971, the club defeated Rapid Bucharest 2-1 to win the European Railworks Cup, a now-defunct club tournament previously won by Lokomotiv Sofia and Rapid Bucharest.
The Kazakh team won the second leg 1-0 after a 1-1 draw in the first match.
3. Kairat are coached by Vladimir Weiss, who has been manager since 2012.
The 50-year-old has extensive management experience under his belt, having had spells as boss of Artmedia Petržalka, Saturn Moscow Oblast, the Slovakian national side and Slovan Bratislava.
As a player, he spent most of his career with Slovakian third-tier club Inter Bratislava, scoring 28 goals in 126 matches. He also appeared for Sparta Prague, Drnovice, Dunajská Streda, Košice and Artmedia Petržalka.
4. The club are based in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan.
Although not the capital (Astana assumed that title in 1997), Almaty is regarded as the cultural and commercial centre of the country.
Dubbed the southern capital of Kazakhstan, it has been home to FC Keirat since their founding in 1954 as Lokomotiv Alma-Ata.
5. The club were in financial dire straits at the end of the 2006 season, when main sponsor Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (the country’s national railways firm) pulled out.
Kairat were then taken over by a group of investors in July 2007, pumping in around $4 million. Despite this, the club finished dangerously close to the relegation zone, and at the start of 2009, declared itself bankrupt.
Kairat were relegated to the Kazakhstan First Division, which they won in November 2009, earning promotion back to the top flight.
6. The club plays at the Almaty Central Stadium. The national football and rugby union teams also use the stadium for fixtures.
With a capacity of around 26,200 it is the second largest arena in the country after the 30,000-capacity Astana Arena.
7. Aberdeen fans will be aware of former Dons midfielder Stuart Duff becoming the first Scot to play in Kazakhstan, after he joined Kairat in 2012.
Former Dundee United loan forward Milos Lacny also had a spell with Kairat, along with Kilmarnock midfielder Alexei Eremenko.
8. Kairat are currently sitting 352nd in UEFA’s club rankings, just behind Bosnian outfit Borac Banja Luka and Irish side Dundalk.
Aberdeen are currently in 275th spot, slightly behind Sligo Rovers and FK Vardar of Macedonia.
9. Kairat have played 14 games in Europe, winning six, drawing two and losing six. They’ve had success in first leg ties against Artmedia Bratislava and Fehérvár of Hungary, but were eliminated in both ties.
A 1-0 win over Albanian side Kukësi was followed up by a 0-0 draw but a 1-1 draw and 1-0 reversal to Danish outfit Esbjerg saw Kairat crash out of the 2014/15 competition, but an impressive 4-1 aggregate victory over Red Star Belgrade, and a 4-2 aggregate win over Alashkert suggest Aberdeen would be wise not to take Kairat lightly.