PMB: Chelsea v Qarabag - talking points and numbers
news Tue 12 Sep 2017
The Champions League group stage returns across Europe today and the Blues are among the first in action. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton welcome the midweek competition…
So where were we before Paris Saint-Germain so rudely interrupted us two season ago? As Antonio Conte has said, now we are back, Chelsea must make the Champions League ‘our home’ again.
That reacquaintance begins against a team that is something of an unknown quantity, not least because the scheduled domestic league game for Champions League debutants Qarabag was postponed last weekend, and it is 17 days since they played a match that could be watched.
The visitors are Europa League regulars though. In the 2015/16 competition they put the pressure on Spurs all the way at home, losing to a late goal. They also drew 1-1 with Monaco in Azerbaijan and lost by a single goal in the return. In last season’s competition, the Horsemen (Qarabag’s nickname) beat PAOK home and away but lost heavily away to Fiorentina and Liberec. They may catch a fancied Group C by surprise, and Chelsea will not want to be that prized scalp.
Prior to that Paris defeat in the last Champions League game in 2016, the Blues had enjoyed a seven-match unbeaten run in west London. With three very strong sides vying for two knockout round places, the comforts of home could be hugely important in Group C.
This is the 12th time in 15 Champions League campaigns that our opening fixture has been at Stamford Bridge, and the 11th in the past 12.
No one should consider a Champions League win a foregone conclusion, especially at the start of the competition. It bears recalling that Chelsea’s victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv two years ago was our first at the Bridge on the opening night of the group stage for four years. One of those opening night draws, in 2012, was of course against a Juve side whose manager that season was Antonio Conte.
|First home games in Champions League group stage|
|2015/16||Maccabi Tel Aviv||W 4-0||Willian; Oscar pen; Diego Costa; Fabregas|
|2012/13||Juventus||D 2-2||Oscar 2|
|2011/12||Bayer Leverkusen||W 2-0||David Luiz; Mata|
|2010/11||Marseille||W 2-0||Terry; Anelka pen|
|2008/09||Bordeaux||W 4-0||Lampard; Cole; Malouda; Anelka|
|2006/07||Werder Bremen||W 2-0||Essien; Ballack pen|
The Blues have, however, won the last six matches at the Bridge against clubs, like Qarabag, drawn from Pot 4, with an aggregate score of 24 goals for, two against.
|Home games in Champions group stage against Pot 4 opponents|
|2015/16||Maccabi Tel Aviv||W 4-0||Willian; Oscar pen; Diego Costa; Fabregas|
|2014/15||Maribor||W 6-0||Remy; Drogba pen; Terry o.g.; Hazard 2 (1 pen)|
|2013/14||Steaua Bucharest||W 1-0||Ba|
|2012/13||Norsdajaelland||W 6-1||David Luiz pen; Torres 2; Cahill; Mata; Oscar|
|2011/12||Genk||W 5-0||Meireles; Torres 2; Ivanovic; Kalou|
|2010/11||Zilina||W 2-1||Sturridge; Malouda|
|2009/10||APOEL Nicosia||D 2-2||Essien; Drogba|
|2008/09||Cluj||W 2-1||Kalou; Drogba|
|2006/07||Levski Sofia||W 2-0||Shevchenko; Wright-Phillips|
Conte, who skippered Juventus to the crown as a player, will be equally eager to go further as a coach than he has before: the quarter-finals, and if it was an advantage for the Blues to have no European football while the head coach instilled a new tactical approach, the benefits of having a now largely settled side should outweigh concerns about the additional workload.
The return leg against tonight’s opponents will become the most distant location in which Chelsea have played a UEFA game. At around 2,500 miles from the Bridge it will exceed Tel Aviv (2,200 miles). Only Yokohama, the Japanese city that hosted our FIFA Club World Cup campaign in 2012, at a little under 6,000 miles, has involved a longer trip for a competitive fixture.
The club is subsidising all-inclusive trips to Baku, a trading post on the ancient Silk Road from China, lapped by the Caspian Sea. A gateway city between Asia and Europe, it has as rich and romantic a history as any European capital.
Azerbaijan is oil-rich, with mountain castles and mud volcanoes. Its Caucasian sheep have provided wool that, once dyed and woven into carpets, covered European floors since the 10th century.
Unfortunately war in the west with neighbouring Armenia, over the disputed territory of Nogorno-Karabakh, has only recently been quelled by a ceasefire. The conflict led to the originally Agdam-based Qarabag relocating a few hundred miles to the capital, Baku, a drop of 365 metres in altitude from mountain to shoreline.
The Horsemen will play their Champions League home matches at the Bakı Olimpiya Stadionu, the new national stadium, and became their nation’s first Champions League group stage side by seeing off Copenhagen on away goals, after a 2-2 aggregate draw. Their qualification campaign began way back on 11 July.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS EVENING…
A winning start, and top of Group C on our return to the Champions League after a year’s absence.
Other Group C fixture
Tonight 7.45pm - Roma v Atletico Madrid
CHELSEA IN NUMBERS
This is our 26th season in European competition and 15th in the Champions League.
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 top team in the first and runners-up in the second one. We have only failed to progress to the knockout stage once, in 2012/13.
|Matchday one fixtures|
|1999/00||AC Milan||D 0-0|
|2003/04||Sparta Prague||W 1-0|
|2006/07||Werder Bremen||W 2-0|
|2010/11||MSK Zilia||W 4-1|
|2015/16||Maccabi Tel Aviv||W 4-0|
|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 season so far
European games since
A home win: 1
A home draw: 4
A home defeat: 0
Eden Hazard made his 250th Chelsea appearance at Leicester on Saturday.
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 Qarabag’s fourth Champions League campaign. In each of the previous three they were eliminated in the third qualifying round.
In 2016/17, the Azeris reached the Europa League group stage for the third year in a row after being knocked out of the Champions League. They have never progressed to the last 32.
The Horsemen’s coach since 2008 is 45-year-old Gurban Gurbanov, Azerbaijan’s highest scoring international with 12 goals in 62 matches. He plied his trade as a player in Russia and Ukraine as well as Azerbaijan, and has steered Qarabag to domestic championships in the past four seasons.
Qarabag have played two games against an English team. In the Europa League group stage in 2015/16, Tottenham beat them home and away.
Qarabag’s one away game against an English team in Europe
2015/16 Tottenham L 0-1 Europa League group stage
Ten Qarabag players were called up by Azerbaijan for the recent European qualifiers against Norway and San Marino.
Last 10 domestic league seasons
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 (after Champions League third QF round)
2015/16 Europa League group stage (after Champions League third QF round)
2016/17 Europa League group stage (after Champions League third QF 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 scorers
Ndlovu 4 (1 pen), Guerrier 2, Michel 2, Ismayilov 1 (pen), Madatov 1
|Azerbaijan Premyer Liga|
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Tasos Sidiropoulos, his assistant referees, and additional assistant referees, are from Greece. This is his first Chelsea match.
- Visit later for part two of the Briefing