With FK Bakı and titleholders FC İnter Bakı separated by just a point at the top of the Premyer Liga with eight games left, uefa.com spoke to both coaches about their respective title chances and football in Azerbaijan as a whole.
uefa.com: What are the main factors that will help your team prevail in the title race?
Gjokica Hadžievski, 54, Bakı coach: We had a five-match winning streak at the beginning of the second half of the season so everything is in our hands now as we are ahead of everybody. We have a brilliant atmosphere in the squad which helps us get results.
Valentyn Khodukin, 69, İnter Bakı coach: We have to win each and every match. The most important thing is to get results in the upcoming games against Turan Tovuz (21 March) and Neftçi (19 April).
uefa.com: What are the strengths of your respective teams?
Hadžievski: To begin with we didn't keeping our shape very well but now everything is operating as it should be.
Khodukin: Both our main strength and our weakness is that we are often too focused on attack.
uefa.com: Both clubs have just two Azerbaijan national-team regulars. What do you think of the policy of having an unlimited number of non-Azeri players in the Premyer Liga?
Hadžievsk: This decision was made so clubs could strengthen their squads and thus create more interest in the league. Things should stay as they are for a year or two.
Khodukin: I think the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan made a wise choice. The case of Azerbaijan's captain, Rashad Sadigov, who's playing in Turkey for Kocaelispor, proves my point. Strong Azeri players will always get to play despite the competition for places. People have to establish themselves.
uefa.com: Azeri clubs have never made an impact in either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Cup. What are the chances of that changing next season?
Hadžievsk: It could happen – we could do it. Besides, we'll probably sign two more players in summer to help us.
Khodukin: A lot depends on the draws. We had a chance last season but some of our players were suspended or injured at key moments while some of the newcomers hadn't forged an understanding with their team-mates. In the Champions League you can't become successful overnight – many years of hard work have to be put in. In my native Ukraine even Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk can't be sure of reaching the Champions League group stage each year.
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