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AGONA Profile: Krasnodar, the ambitious Russians aiming for the stars

AGONA Profile: Krasnodar, the ambitious Russians aiming for the stars

AGONAsport takes a closer look at FC Krasnodar, who will play Olympiacos in the qualification playoffs of the 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League.

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Krasnodar are on a mission. Owned by the popular Sergey Galitsky, Krasnodar have been quietly rising to the top of the Russian game, finishing in third place of the Premier League on two occasions in the past five seasons. The last time when Krasnodar finished outside of the top five in Russia was in 2013.

Interestingly, FC Krasnodar was only founded in 2008, but clever management and heavy funding has allowed the club to harbour large ambitions. The facilities which Galitsky has created for the club are hugely impressive too. While it controversially wasn’t used for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the newly-constructed Krasnodar Stadium is a state of the art arena regarded as one of the best in Europe, and the modern youth academy has received high praise. Galitsky has become a model example of how to manage a football club.

On the European stage, Krasnodar have gradually been gaining a positive reputation, notably coming within a minute of qualifying for the 2018/2019 Europa League quarter-finals in a dramatic tie against Valencia. This year, the Bulls are making their Champions League debuts, but they showed remarkable calmness to hold on in Portugal and defeat FC Porto 3:2 in the third qualifying round. A result which prompted several euphoric Russian journalists to suggest that Krasnodar are the ‘clear favourites’ to defeat Olympiacos and qualify for the group phase. A bold statement to make for a club which has never competed in this competition before...

The fact that the Russian Premier League is collectively superior to the Super League certainly plays into Krasnodar’s hands. And not forgetting their large budget either, of course.

In their short history, Krasnodar have already met Greek opposition. In the 2015/2016 Europa League, Krasnodar faced PAOK in the group phase, earning a 2:1 victory at home and drawing 0:0 on the road. Krasnodar have played in the group stages of the Europa League on four occasions, registering victories against the likes of Everton, Real Sociedad, Borussia Dortmund, Nice, Fenerbahce, Red Star Belgrade, Standard Liege and Sevilla.

Krasnodar are yet to win any major honours. Their best achievement - excluding their Premier League bronze medals and European adventures - was reaching the final of the 2014 Russian Cup. In the previous season, Krasnodar threatened to challenge Zenit Saint Petersburg for the domestic title, but they fell away towards the end of the campaign. Zenit and Lokomotiv Moscow eventually finished in the first two positions of the standings.

The 2019/2020 Russian Premier League started in July. At the moment, Krasnodar occupy fifth place of the table, trailing reigning champions and current leaders Zenit by three points. Zenit recently scored a last-gasp equaliser to deny Krasnodar a famous victory at the Gazprom Arena.

Full name: Футбольный клуб Краснодар (Football Club Krasnodar)

Founded: 2008

Owner: Sergey Galitsky

Head coach: Murad Musaev

Stadium: Krasnodar Stadium (Capacity 35,074)

Major honours: 0

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HEAD COACH

Murad Musaev is the de facto head coach, but due to the lack of the required UEFA Coaching Licence, he cannot officially be listed as the Krasnodar manager. UEFA don’t allow Musaev to stand on the touchline for European matches.

Musaev, 35, initially temporarily replaced Igor Shalimov as the Krasnodar boss in 2018 before he subsequently earned a permanent contract. A Krasnodar native, Musaev has previously coached in the club’s youth system.

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KEY PLAYERS

Magomed-Shapi Suleymanov is the most exciting young Russian talent at this moment in time. Suleymanov, a 19-year-old forward from Makhachkala, burst onto the scene in 2017 by scoring in a Europa League win over Lyngby BK. Since then, the teenager has rapidly progressed with Krasnodar, scoring 14 goals in the 2018/2019 season. That haul of goals included markers against Standard Liege, Bayer Leverkusen and Valencia in Europe.

On Wednesday, Suleymanov was handed a rare start by Musaev, and he repaid the faith by scoring two historic goals against Porto to send Krasnodar through. His superb technical ability and knack of scoring crucial goals will cause Olympiacos big problems.

Transfermarkt rates his value at six million euros.

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Matvey Safonov is considered a very promising goalkeeper. Standing 192 centimeters tall, the youthful 20-year-old possesses alert reflexes, and many expect him to regularly play with the senior Russian national team in the future. Safonov has tallied two clean sheets in seven matches this summer, conceding seven goals along the way.

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Ivan Ignatyev, who is also valued at six million like Suleymanov and Safonov, is only 20 as well. The forward has started this season in determined fashion, scoring three goals in five Russian Premier League goals as he challenges for a permanent place in the Krasnodar starting line-up. Jose Sa is sure to be a busy man between the Olympiacos sticks.

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All Greek football fans are aware of Marcus Berg. During his successful stint with Panathinaikos from 2013 to 2017, the Swede became a hero for the Prasini faithful, scoring over 100 goals and winning the Greek Cup. In the summer transfer window, Berg had the opportunity to join Olympiacos after leaving Al-Ain, but he took the decision to sign for Krasnodar instead.

The 32-year-old striker is yet to score in Russia, but you can be sure he will be full of motivation to perform well against Panathinaikos’ arch-rivals.

 

by Shaun Nicolaides

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