There will be a highly interesting return leg in Azerbaijan when Qarabag will try to turn around the deficit in Goteborg, as the Swedes stole a 1-0 victory in the first leg despite being severely outplayed on the pitch in terms of chances created and possession – It comes down to effectiveness in the end, and it was a one shot wonder which saved the Swedes, and obviously they will use that goal as a cushion going to Azerbaijan. Qarabag travelled home with a disappointing feeling but have more than decent chances to make it interesting on home soil.
Let’s remain on the word “home soil” for a second, and justify one hugely important factor. Qarabag might be this Europa League qualifiers strongest home team if we look at the record, and is perhaps one of the most difficult places to visit if we overlook the big teams. The last time they suffered a home loss was against Tottenham on the 11th of November 2015. They finished with a 15-3-0 home record with 40-6 in goal differential at home in the domestic league but also gave several top teams in Europe a tough time when they visited. Therefore, the players from Qarabag feel confident in turning things around in their fortress.
Azerbaijan as a football nation might not be what immediately puts any scare in opponents, however the domestic league consist of wealthy and more importantly very ambitious clubs. The most recent examples as Gabala and Qarabag who leads this example. With striker Reynaldo, who is a proven lethal scorer in his prime age of 26, there will be chances to score more than once. Defensively they can lean on Ansi Agolli who is coming from a great Euro 2016 campaign with Albania. It might not be “well known” names but certainly experienced when it comes to international caps and Europa League / Champions League play. Coach Gurban Gurbanov is a successful coach during his time, with having won 54.6% of his coached games.
The tactics and match picture worked very well for Qarabag in the first leg – so we should expect the same lineup to take shape at home as well
While the Swedish league might be stronger than the one in Azerbaijan, Goteborg are not having a good year domestically and the victory against Qarabag at home came as a gift from above after only managing 4 shots compared to 17 for the visitors – still, it was enough to celebrate. Goteborg do have financial problems and therefore they are fully focused on qualifying for Europa League as it comes with well needed money. They have lost the title race in the Swedish league and this was particularly visible when they lost against Hammarby in the last fixture, after resting key players Tobias Hysen, Soren Rieks and the scorer from the first leg, Mads Albaek. It is a strong statement of being focused on the task at hand, but the away record for Goteborg is surprisingly weak after going 3-3-4.
Striker Gustav Engvall (15/3) will not travel with the team. Also, young midfielder Patrik Karlsson-Lagemyr (11/2) will miss the clash.
Truth comes first, and regarless of how you look at the first result, Goteborg experienced their once in a lifetime victory thanks to a wonder goal, a solid strike by Mads Albaek. The Azerbaijan side were superior in everything but efficiency, and it was a big difference in technique, passing, movement, fluency, creativity, attempts – the list certainly goes on. With home soil advantage for Qarabag and only one goal to chase, it is more than a doable task. Goteborg have been weak their away fixtures and the Azerbaijan side will hit the gas pedal from the start. Expect more dominance than in the first leg – as such, -1 asian handicap for the hosts suits well in my eyes.