Founded a mere six years ago, FC Krasnodar are one of 18 continental debutants in this season's UEFA Europa League.
In that short space of time, the club have risen from the third tier to the top flight – where they finished fifth last term, thereby securing their place in Europe – and reached the 2014 Russian Cup final, losing on penalties to FC Rostov.
UEFA.com spoke to Krasnodar's former Russian international midfielder Marat Izmailov, on loan from FC Porto, about the team's aims and ambitions following their 9-0 aggregate defeat of second qualifying round opponents JK Sillamäe Kalev.
"The whole of the football world is surprised by Krasnodar's progress, but all of their success is merited," said the 31-year-old. "Everyone inside the club is burning with desire to continue surprising. Everything is in place to achieve that. The infrastructure is of the highest level and the squad is solid − the quality of the players is impressive."
Earlier this month the one-time FC Lokomotiv Moskva, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Qäbälä FK player became Krasnodar's sixth summer signing after Ukrainian reserve goalkeeper Andriy Dykan, Russia winger Vladimir Bystrov, Uzbekistani international Odil Ahmedov, 40-year-old midfielder Ruslan Adzhindzhal and striker Nikita Burmistrov.
"I knew only Bystrov [when I arrived], we met in the Russia set-up, but there is a great group in Krasnodar − very open and easy-going," explained Izmailov, capped 35 times. "All the lads are great professionals. I feel very comfortable here.
"Krasnodar play modern, attacking football. The club is ready to battle for the top places in the league. It is within our capabilities to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League. Yes, international experience is of utmost importance, but even without it this group of quick and skillful players allows us to dream of doing something big in Europe. I have faith in the team and myself. We want to go as far as possible."
Izmailov could make his Krasnodar debut on Thursday when Oleg Kononov's team visit Hungary's Diósgyőri VTK in the first instalment of their third qualifying round tie. Though the Bulls are considered favorites to progress to the play-offs, Izmailov knows from experience the pitfalls of being over confident.
"We have to treat everyone with respect," he stressed. "Two years ago Sporting played another Hungarian club, Videoton, in the Europa League. We must have approached the away game with the wrong mentality and conceded three times in the first-half as a result. The game ended 3-0. It wasn't a contest and we had no chance. Our head coach, Sá Pinto, was sacked after that."
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