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Russian summit meeting tops bill of busy weekend

Published: Friday 5 August 2011, 11.50CET
This weekend brings a top-of-the-table game in Russia and season openers in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Luxembourg, Montenegro and Northern Ireland.
Russian summit meeting tops bill of busy weekend
CSKA's Mark González evades a challenge during his side's match against Zenit in April ©Getty Images

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Published: Friday 5 August 2011, 11.50CET

Russian summit meeting tops bill of busy weekend

This weekend brings a top-of-the-table game in Russia and season openers in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Luxembourg, Montenegro and Northern Ireland.

The seasons in France, Germany and the Netherlands also get under way this weekend.

Azerbaijan: Gança FK v Ravan FK (Saturday, 15.00)
Top-flight debutants they may be, but Ravan will not be found wanting for experience having lured several key players and coaches from Muğan FK. Fellow newcomers Standard Sumqayit FK open with a difficult assignment at Xäzär Länkäran FK, though champions Neftçi PFK will host Qarabağ FK at a later date having asked for the game to be postponed so that they could prepare for their UEFA Europa League third qualifying round decider against Club Brugge KV. Simurq Zaqatala PFK and Olimpik-Şüvälan PFK both have new coaches in the form of ex-Russia striker Sergei Yuran and Elkhan Abdullaev respectively, and Asgar Abdullayev is back at the Turan PFK helm following a two-year hiatus.

Northern Ireland: Glenavon FC v Linfield FC (Saturday, 16.00)
Linfield kick off their title defence having celebrated their 125th anniversary year in some style last term, claiming a record 50th league title and a fourth domestic double in five seasons. "Last season was memorable – but it is now consigned to the history books," said David Jeffrey, the Belfast club's longest-serving manager. "We are fully focused on the new campaign. I have a sound, solid squad and a group of players who remain hungry, determined and committed to winning trophies." Elsewhere, last year's runners-up Crusaders FC take on Glentoran FC, who finished third, with both clubs looking to wrestle the title from Linfield's grasp.

Russia: PFC CSKA Moskva v FC Zenit St Petersburg (Saturday, 16.45)
The top two in the Premier-Liga may be separated by five points, but the omens appear good for leaders CSKA. At home and on a run of seven wins from their last eight league games, the capital club look well set. Kirill Nababkin is suspended, though, and Evgeni Aldonin joins a host of long-term absentees on the sidelines. Zoran Tošić and Alan Dzagoev are available, while Vyacheslav Malafeev is determined to be fit for Zenit. "I am ready to take to the pitch even if they have to give me a pain-killing injection," he said. "I really want to play in such a big game. There are not very many matches like this in a season and I have no desire to watch it on TV."

Montenegro: FK Grbalj v FK Budućnost Podgorica (Saturday, 17.30)
Denied by FK Mogren last season, Budućnost hope their three-year wait for the Montenegrin title will finally end in 2011/12, with Miodrag Radulović − their tenth coach in five seasons − set to ignite the charge at Grbalj. "A good start is very important," said Radulović, who took over after Saša Petrović resigned in the wake of a UEFA Europa League loss to Albanian side KS Flamurtari. "We won't underestimate our opponents, but it is all down to us." Budućnost's summer signings include HNK Hajduk Split goalkeeper Božidar Radošević, FC Anzhi Makhachkala defender Mitar Peković as well as Mogren midfielder Draško Božović and Grbalj forward Srdjan Radonjić.

Luxembourg: F91 Dudelange v Racing FC Union Lëtzebuerg (Saturday, 18.30)
Dudelange will be keen to put their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round exit behind them when they begin the new season against a Racing Union side who narrowly avoided relegation last term. The champions have bolstered their attacking options with the signing of Aurélien Joachim from Saturday's opponents as they look to claim back-to-back titles and avenge May's cup final defeat by FC Differdange 03. "We are aiming to win both the championship and the cup," said Dudelange coach Dan Theis. "Competition in this squad is very high; we have a back-up for every position. If someone doesn't put in his best performance, he will sit in the stands."

Bosnia and Herzegovina: NK Široki Brijeg v FK Željezničar (Sunday, 21.00)
The Pecara Stadium will host an opening-day derby between last season's fourth-placed side, Široki Brijeg, and the Sarajevo Railwaymen, who finished third and won the Bosnia and Herzegovina Cup. Branko Karačić replaced Mario Ćutuk as Široki Brijeg coach after Slovenian side NK Ljubljana eliminated them from the UEFA Europa League, and feels his new employers can play "a significant role" in the title race, and maybe succeed FK Borac Banja Luka as champions. Željezničar coach Amar Osim has similar thoughts, though his first objective is "to end a run of embarrassing results at Široki Brijeg".

Georgia: FC Torpedo Kutaisi v FC Zestafoni (Sunday, 19.00)
Champions Zestafoni begin the new 12-team championship with a trip to two-time Georgian cup winners Torpedo. Last season's losing finalists defeated Zestafoni twice in 2010/11 and watched their opponents' UEFA Champions League campaign come to an end against SK Sturm Graz on Wednesday. Gia Geguchadze's side remain among the favourites to compete for the title, though, with Nikoloz Gelashvili looking to improve on an impressive tally of 18 goals last campaign.

Bulgaria: PFC Lokomotiv Sofia vs PFC CSKA Sofia (Sunday, 19.30)
The Bulgarian A PFG begins with two capital derbies in the space of 24 hours. While PFC Levski Sofia and PFC Slavia Sofia meet on Monday, it is the turn of Lokomotiv and CSKA on Sunday. The Army Men, recent Bulgarian Super Cup winners, have impressed with some fluent attacking football under coach Milen Radukanov. Lokomotiv will be no walkover, though, with both teams looking to lay down a marker before perennial title contenders Levski start their campaign under new coach Georgi Ivanov.

All times CET

Last updated: 05/08/11 13.12CET

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