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Olimpija Ljubljana and Qarabag to finish all square
11 July 2018, 09:42
Olimpija Ljubljana and Qarabag to finish all square

Olimpija Ljubljana will meet Qarabag on Wednesday night in the Champions League first qualifying round. The first leg match will be played in Ljubljana giving the Slovenian side a slight upper hand in the fixture.

Qarabag have far more European experience than Olimpija. The club from Azerbaijan qualified for the Champions league group stage a season ago. Although Qarabag were up against Roma, Chelsea, and Atletico Madrid in the competition, the experience was one to learn from.

Even before making last season's Champions league group stage, Qarabag had qualified for three consecutive Europa League group stages between 2014 and 2016. The club's past experience could enable it to get through the first qualifying round. Unfortunately for Qarabag, the club will have a long route back to the group stage if they can get past Olimpija.

The two sides should be quite evenly matched when they kick off on Wednesday. However, Olimpija should be in better physical condition than Qarabag. Olimpija kick off their new domestic campaign next week. Meanwhile, Qarabag, who won the Azerbaijan Premier League last term, have been on holiday since May. Qarabag won't start their domestic league season until August, which means they are only in the opening stages of preseason. The lack of fitness could be the difference between going on to the second round and going home.

While it is easy to believe Qarabag's wealth of experience in European competition will see them get past Olimpija, it may not be the case. Olimpija won the Slovenian top-flight last term and anything can happen in the early stages of the competition.

It is likely that Qarabag will play the first leg cautiously. Manager Gurban Gurbanov could fill his midfield with five players to slow down Olimpija. Playing on the counter attack and going back home with a nil-nil scoreline would suit Qarabag. Meanwhile, Olimpija will be ready to attack. Having had more preparation for the season and playing at home will give Ilija Stolica incentive. An Olimpija home goal would put intense pressure on Qarabag in the second leg. Olimpija could kill off the tie early in match two with an away goal. However, the Slovenian side must prevent Qarabag from scoring in the first leg and taking an advantage back to Azerbaijan.

Due to this game coming early in the season, Olimpija and Qarabag will finish level. The two teams will have everything to play for when the second leg kicks off in Azerbaijan.

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