PMB: Qarabag v Chelsea - talking points and numbers
news Wed 22 Nov 2017
Matchday five of the Champions League takes Chelsea to the Caspian Sea. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview a big night in Baku…
Antonio Conte describes this as the most important game of the season so far because a win will confirm passage to the knockout phase of Europe’s elite competition. Even a draw would suffice should Atletico fail to beat Roma in Madrid.
Chelsea, currently second-placed in Group C, have finished top of our Champions League group 11 times, and in each of the past three campaigns. Group winners play the second leg at home in the Round of 16 and face one of the eight runners-up.
The Italian will want to qualify as soon as possible because of the heavy schedule facing him and his squad from now until the New Year. He had a strong point when he highlighted the Blues will touch down in London on Thursday before a game against Liverpool on Saturday. ‘Is it normal, this?’ Conte queried. ‘I don’t think so.’
All the head coach is asking for is balance in the Premier League scheduling. This weekend will be the second time the Blues have been presented with a tough Wednesday-Saturday turnaround after an away trip in Europe. The home defeat by Manchester City in September came on a Saturday after victory on the Wednesday at Atletico Madrid. Like City then, Liverpool have the advantage of a day extra to rest and prepare, having drawn in Sevilla last night.
Qarabag have lost each of their three meetings with English clubs in European competition.
At least travelling supporters can relax. The club has subsidised all-inclusive trips to Baku, a trading post on the ancient Silk Route from China, lapped by the Caspian Sea, and the farthest flung corner of Europe to which Chelsea have ever journeyed. Two thousand five hundred miles separate London and Baku, and the flight time is five-and-a-half hours.
The trip outstrips our previous furthest of Tel Aviv (2,200 miles). Other than friendlies, only Yokohama, the Japanese city that hosted our 2012 FIFA Club World Cup campaign, involved a longer trip by the Blues.
The 69,870-capacity Baku Olympic Stadium is sold out for the visit of the English champions. Their two previous Champions League attendances there were 67,200 (Roma) and 47,923 (Atletico Madrid).
The stadium will become the 205th the Blues have visited for first-team action. Qarabag are the Londoners’ 77th European opposition and Azerbaijan is our 29th different host country.
The Group C game kicks off long after sunset at 9pm Azerbaijan time. Baku is four time zones away, so that means a 5pm start in the UK. The weather is predicted to be warm compared to the UK, but very windy.
This is the final fling for the Horsemen on home soil in Group C. Their first steps into the previously unknown territory of the Champions League proper were faltering ones. Conte masterminded a 6-0 thrashing at the Bridge, then Roma clung on in Baku to win 2-1. But recently, with home and away draws against Atletico, they have found their footing.
Chelsea’s 0-3 defeat at Rome’s Stadio Olympico on matchday 3 still needs to be expunged from memory, but the Blues are buoyant in the Premier League again after making it four straight wins on Saturday.
The dominant performance and often sumptuous football in the 4-0 win over West Bromwich Albion was just the ticket ahead of this long and challenging trek. Although it set a new club-record margin of victory at the Hawthorns, Conte may be equally delighted with a third successive clean sheet in the top flight.
England supporters in Baku this evening may care to cross town to the stadium named after Tofiq Bakhramov, and pause for a moment at his statue outside. Who was Mr Bakhramov? He was the legendary ‘Russian linesman’ who persuaded 1966 World Cup final referee Gottfried Dienst that Geoff Hurst’s shot rebounded off the bar and over the goalline.
The match official, who died in 1996, was actually from Azerbaijan, then part of the Soviet Union, hence the tribute at his country’s former national stadium. Hurst was Chelsea’s coach then manager from 1979 to 1981, and in 2004 he attended the unveiling of the bronze likeness of the man who defined his career, and who never changed his mind about the controversial decision.
Nowadays it is Qarabag who are putting Baku on the international football map. They caused a sensation by securing their country’s first ever Champions League point on 18 October – the nation’s Independence Day.
Their home draw against Atletico was the 75th European match for their head coach, Gurban Gurbanov, who has now added the same role with the national team to his workload.
His side beat mid-table Sumqayit 2-0 at tonight’s arena on Friday (this time watched by just 2,000) to remain leaders of the Premyer Liqa, which starts a two-month winter break in December.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS EVENING…
A winning debut in Azerbaijan, and into the Round of 16 with a game to spare.
Elsewhere in Group C, only a win at home to Roma will keep Atletico’s Champions League hopes alive going into the last games of the group stage, when they visit the Bridge and the Azeris are in Rome.
The irony of the red card shown to Pedro Henrique for a high boot and second yellow for Stefan Savic during Qarabag’s 1-1 draw at Wanda Metropolitano last time out is that neither side benefits from the punishment meted out for fouls against them tonight. Henrique is a big loss for the Horsemen against Chelsea, and the absence of Savic in Diego Simeone’s defence is Roma’s gain.
Other Group C fixture
Tonight 7.45pm - Atletico Madrid v Roma
|CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP G|
CHELSEA IN NUMBERS
The Blues have topped our group in 11 of our 14 Champions League campaigns. In 1999/2000 there were two group stages and we were runners-up in the second one. We have only failed to progress to the knockout stage once, in 2012/13.
Our victory in Madrid in our Champions League away game there was the fourth in our last 10 European away fixtures
Chelsea have scored four goals from outside the box in the Champions League this season, more than any other team.
Eden Hazard’s brace at West Brom moved him ahead of Dennis Wise as our 17th all-time goalscorer with 77.
All-time top scorers
Lampard 211, Tambling 202, Dixon 193, Drogba 164, Bentley 150, Osgood 150, Greaves 132, Mills 125, Hilsdon 108, Bridges 93, Baldwin 92, Hasselbaink 87, Gallacher 81, Whittingham 80, Zola 80, Gudjohnsen 78, Hazard 77, Wise 76.
|Our Champions League record|
|Group pos||Round reached|
|2005/06||2nd||Round of 16|
|2009/10||1st||Round of 16|
|2014/15||1st||Round of 16|
|2015/16||1st||Round of 16|
Chelsea’s past six games
21 Oct - Watford (h) - W 4-2
25 Oct - Everton (h) - W 2-1
28 Oct - Bournemouth (a) - W 1-0
31 Oct - Roma (a) - L 0-3
5 Nov - Manchester United (h) - W 1-0
18 Nov - West Bromwich Albion (a) - W 4-0
European games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 4
An away defeat: 0
QARABAG IN NUMBERS
5 Azerbaijani league titles, last in 2017
6 Azerbaijani Cups, last in 2017
1 Azerbaijani Super Cups in 1994
Premyer Liqa - champions
Azerbaijan Cup - winners
Europa League - group stage
Qarabag are the first team from Azerbaijan to qualify for the Champions League group stage.
This is the Horsemen’s fourth Champions League campaign. In each of the previous three they were eliminated in the third qualifying round.
In 2016/17, the Azeri club reached the Europa League group stage for the third year in a row having been knocked out of the Champions League. They have never progressed to the last 32.
Forty-five-year-old Qarabag manager Gurban Gurbanov is Azerbaijan’s highest scoring international with 12 goals in 62 matches. He played in Russia and Ukraine as well as his homeland. Coach since 2008, he has steered Qarabag to domestic championships in the past four seasons.
Qarabag’s one home game against an English team in Europe
2015/16 Tottenham L 0-1 Europa League group stage
On Matchday 4 Qarabag managed a draw at Atletico Madrid despite playing the last half-an-hour with 10 men. Atletico had 33 shots on goal compared to Qarabag’s four.
Ten-year European record
2007/08 Did not qualify
2008/09 Did not qualify
2009/10 Europa League play-offs
2010/11 Europa League play-offs
2011/12 Europa League third qualifying round
2012/13 Did not qualify
2013/14 Europa League play-offs
2014/15 Europa League group stage (having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round)
2015/16 Europa League group stage (having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round)
2016/17 Europa League group stage (having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round)
|Champions League qualifying|
|Jul 11||Samtredia (h) second qualifying round||W 5-0|
|Jul 18||Samtredia (a) second qualifying round||W 1-0|
|Jul 25||Sheriff (h) third qualifying round||D 0-0|
|Aug 01||Sheriff (a) third qualifying round||W 2-1|
|Aug 15||FC Copenhagen (h) Play-off||W 1-0|
|Aug 23||FC Copenhagen (a) Play-off||L 1-2 (won on away goals)|
|Champions League Group C|
|12 Sep||Chelsea (a)||L 0-6|
|27 Sep||Roma (h)||L 1-2|
|18 Oct||Atletico Madrid (h)||D 0-0|
|31 Oct||Atletico Madrid (a)||D 1-1|
|22 Nov||Chelsea (h)|
|05 Dec||Roma (a)|
Champions League scorers
Ndlovu 4, Michel 3, Guerrier 2, Henrique 1, Ismayilov 1, Madatov 1
Madatov 5, Ndlovu 4, Almeida 2, Ismayilov 2, Michel 2, Diniyev 1, Henrique 1, Quintana 1, Yunuszade 1
|Azerbaijan Premyer Liga|
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Manuel de Sousa, his assistant referees, and additional assistant referees are from Portugal. The 42-year-old has been a FIFA badge-holder since 2006 but this is his first match involving Chelsea.
Qarabag winger Pedro Henrique is suspended.
Qarabag: Garayev 1, Huseynov 1, Henrique 1, Michel 1, Rzezniczak 1, Sadygov 1
Three yellow cards accrued by a player result in a one-match Champions League suspension.
- Visit later for part two of the Briefing