So the Champions League draw has been made and we’re all ready for kick off. However there’s one team in the mix that many won’t have even heard of. The Horsemen from Baku, Qarabağ FK.
But who are they?
Qarabag were formed in 1951 under the name Mehsul and took part in the Azerbaijani championship for 4 years. Due to lack of finances they had to drop out of the championship. In 1977 the team reformed under the name Shafaq and in 1988 they won the Championship under their current name.
Qarabag originally played their games in Aghdam but, due to the breakout of war, they had to move to the Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium in Baku. Financial troubles plagued the side once again until they got a big sponsorship deal in 2001.
The clubs all time top scorer is Mushfig Huseynov with 125 goals in 325 games. The second top scorer is Reynaldo. That’s Reynaldo, not Ronaldo.
Since 2010 the club have been flirting with European football, progressing to the Europa League group stages a few times.
So far their European record hasn’t been too inspiring, conceding 101 goals in 84 games and having a win rate of just 38%.
However, their manager since 2008, Gurban Gurbanov, has brought a Tika Taka style to the club, leading to some supporters calling them ‘Qafqazın Barselonası’ (Barcelona of The Caucasus).
The club helped form the Azerbaijan Premier League in 1992 and have played in every season of the competition since, winning it 5 times. They were also the first, non-Baku based club to the win the title.
Their qualification to this year’s Champions League means they are the first Azerbaijani club to qualify for the tournament.
Anything is possible in football, just ask Leicester. Could we see the Barcelona of The Caucasus making waves in the Champions League this year? With Atletico Madrid, Roma and Chelsea in their group it could be a tough one.
Qarabag Champions League winners? Well, never say never!