The opponents: Qarabag FK are originally from Agdam, once a thriving market town of 40,000 people, but now an uninhabited ghost town. Armenian forces captured Agdam in the Nagorno-Karabakh war; the team relocated to Baku, while their head coach was killed in the war.
Now based in Baku, they have become the most successful Azerbaijani side in Europe, qualifying for the Champions League in 2017-18 and being a regular participant in the Europa League qualifying stages.
Since 2008, they’ve been coached by Qurban Qurbanov, a retired Azerbaijani international who has built his success (seven straight league championships, four cup triumphs) around using and developing local talent, not bringing in players from abroad.
The club is well-supported, in spite of playing away from its home area, as it is become a symbol of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Their original stadium was destroyed in the 1990s war; now, with the region destabilized again, they are unable to play European matches in Baku, so this match is being played in Istanbul, Turkey.
As far as scouting the team? Well, they lost their first match in the group stage at Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and frankly didn’t show much. They do tend to feature a short-passing, tiki-takaish style of play when they get going.
They do have one Spanish player, Jaime Romero. He played against Villarreal for Osasuna in the 2016-17 season (a match we won 3-1). Against Maccabi, they played in a 4-2-3-1 with Jaime as the striker, but only got 5 shots away.
Villarreal is sure to rotate heavily again for this match, but I have not yet seen our team list. However, Carlos Bacca appeared with Unai Emery at today’s press conference in Istanbul, so I would assume he would start.