The Terrace


Champions League 3rd Round Qualifiers Lowdown: Red Star and Sparak Moscow

Posted in Celtic,Champions League,Old Firm,Rangers by terraceradio on August 3, 2007

Here’s a brief lowdown on the opponents for the Old Firm’s repective opponents in the ‘£10 million game’ in the 3rd round of the Champions League qualifiers.
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Rangers today received just about the kindest draw they could have hoped for (with the notable exception of the real minnows, if there is such a thing, like Hafnorfjordur/BATE Borisov). Nevertheless Rangers fans would be foolish to think that – given they do beat FK Zeta – they will waltz past either Levadia Talinn or, as is more likely, Crvena Zvezda. 

After beating Levadia 1-0 in the first leg you would expect the Serbian giants to finish the job over in Estonia. Crvena boast a proud European history, including a European Cup as recently as 1991 under their previous guise of Red Star Belgrade when they boasted some of the most gifted players of the generation: The likes of Dejan Savicevic, Vladimir Jugovic, Sinisa Mihajlovic and the genius that was Robert Prosenecki. 

The current crop of Crvena Zvezda players may not boast the same profile as those legends, but there is little doubt that the current Serbian champions will boast a very technically proficient squad and will give Rangers a very stern test. You only need to look at Serbia’s performance in this summer’s U-21’s European Championships (runner’s up) to see that Serbian football is on the rise and is in a much better state – in terms of talent – than the game in Scotland. 

Some players to looks out for from Crveda Zvezda are: 

Former Portsmouth winger and Slovenian regular Ognjen Koroman, who scored the only goal of the game as Crveda beat Levadia in Belgrade, will be a player Rangers will need to watch carefully. He can play on the left or right, so Hutton and Papac will need to have their wits about them. 

Captain Dejan Milovanovic also captained Serbia U-21’s this summer in their impressive campaign and will be in the centre of the Crveda midfield, and at the heart of everything they do – if he’s still there, there are a raft of clubs chasing him. 

Crveda have also brought in a raft of South Americans this summer, in the form of Mauricio Molina (Colombia), Franklin Salas (Ecuador) and Hernan Barcos (Argentina) and if these players settle in then Rangers will have to be wary of these unknown quantities from the most naturally gifted continent on the planet. 

If Levadia miraculously get through the 2nd Qualifying round (for the first time in their history) then that should be enough to make Rangers wary of them. In truth Levadia are a hard working side with no real star players, and unlike Crveda, no European pedigree so if Rangers were to face them the Glasgow side would be hot favourites however manager Tarmo Ruutli is remaining positive that his side will get past Red Star.

He said:

“I would like it very much if we could meet Rangers in the next round but neither team is through at this moment and it will be very difficult for us.

“However, they are a very big club with a great history so to play them would be very nice.
At this moment I do not know much about the Rangers team but if we both qualify I will have no problem getting more information. It will not be hard to do this as I know they are a very good team.”

About the fixture against Red Star he said:

“Our game against Red Star was tough as they are a better team and made a lot of opportunites. It is most likely that Rangers will face Red Star now if they can win against Zeta.

“It will be very hard fo us but we have to be hopeful as we are now at home.”

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Celtic have no such hope in facing the smaller team as Spartak Moscow come straight through to face the Scottish Champions as one of the biggest unseeded teams in the draw.

The first leg will be played in Moscow on the 15th of August and the return leg on the 29th of August in Glasgow following a tough weekend test away to Hearts.

Lovingly refered to as Myaso (The Meat!) they playing at the 84,745 capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, where incidently the Champions League final will be played.

The Russian side currently sit top of the table after 18 games, with 33 points- 2 ahead of second placed Zenith St Petersburg. They are already past the half way point in their season, with only 16 teams playing in Russia’s top flight.

Their team includes:

Croatian number 1, Stipe Pletikosa, who joined this season from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Stallwart stopper Martin Jiránek is an established Czech Republic internationlist but is rumoured to be missing both legs of the fixture.

Versatile fullback and defensive midfielder Roman Shishkin, recently given his first cap in a Russian jersey alongside his midfield teamates Dmitri Torbinsky, Aleksei Rebko and Vladimir Bystrov.

The midfield lynchpin is arguably captain and 40+ capped Yegor Titov, who has been capped over 40 times for his native Russia but was left out of recent international matches in June by Russian manager Guus Hiddink.

Mozart Santos Batista Júnior, the uncapped Brazillian defensive midfielder who was a reported summer target for the Scottish Champions.

Star striker Pavlyuchenko has been on form already this season, with

The squad also includes former Arsenal winger-cum-forward Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, who joined the club last season.

Spartak Moscow Sergei Shavlo General Director had this to say about the upcoming match:

“It’s the first time Spartak have drawn a Scottish club. It’s a good draw.”

“Celtic are an interesting side that play attacking football and have a good collection of players.”

“We will prepare, and interesting games lie ahead. I consider our chances to be 50:50.”

Manager Stanislav Cherchesov is echoed the prospect of facing the Scottish Champions:

“Celtic are a strong opponent, who play in front of packed crowds when at home,” he said.
“The team is sufficiently qualified and their play has changed for the better in recent years.

“But while we don’t have all the necessary information and haven’t studied our opponents thoroughly, there is little sense in saying anything concrete about them.

“It’s not in our tradition to get ahead of ourselves and give predictions.”

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