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Zobel backs Dinamo for the double

Published: Tuesday 16 September 2008, 8.59CET
The new season in Georgia finally got under way at the weekend, and while FC Dinamo Tbilisi endured an early setback, German coach Rainer Zobel is still "aiming for the league title and the Georgian Cup".
by Soso Kotoreishvili
from Tbilisi
Zobel backs Dinamo for the double
Dinamo Tbilisi's German coach Rainer Zobel ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 16 September 2008, 8.59CET

Zobel backs Dinamo for the double

The new season in Georgia finally got under way at the weekend, and while FC Dinamo Tbilisi endured an early setback, German coach Rainer Zobel is still "aiming for the league title and the Georgian Cup".
The new season in Georgia finally got under way at the weekend, and while FC Dinamo Tbilisi endured an early setback, coach Rainer Zobel is still "aiming for the league title and the Georgian Cup".

Ameri withdraw
The season had been due to begin on 23 August, but political instability in the former Soviet republic saw kick-off put back to 13 September, with eleven teams competing – down from 14 last season. The plan had been for 12 teams to be involved, but FC Ameri were forced to withdraw before the start of the campaign with financial problems.

Dinamo changes
Reigning champions Dinamo, who took their 13th title last time around, remain favourites to claim the championship despite losing their opening game 2-1 at promoted FC Gagra. The club have seen some major changes over the summer, with former FC Bayern München midfielder Zobel taking over from Czech Dušan Uhrin as coach. Australian defender Ned Zelic retired, last season's top scorer Mikheil Khutsishvili joined Azerbaijan's FK Olimpik Bakı, Czech defender Roman Dobeš returned home and reserve goalkeeper Soso Grishikashvili teamed up with Armenia's FC MIKA.

Double ambition
The returns of Giorgi Kavtaradze and Donald Jius from loan at FC Borjomi helped swell the ranks, while Zobel has promoted a number of other players up from the youth system, though his side will not be at full strength until midfielder Giorgi Merebashvili returns from injury. "We are aiming for the league title and Georgian Cup," said Zobel, undeterred. "We have the strength to battle for two trophies."

Main rivals
FC Zestaponi look like their biggest rivals on both fronts. Led by Temur Makharadze for the last five years, they continue to benefit from the presence of Cameroonians Eric Chassem and Fridolin Boyomo, though Gabonese stars Etienne Bito and Paul Kesanny have yet to return. "We have a decent team," said Makharadze. "The young players, like Beka Gotsiridze and Niko Kvaskhvadze, performed very well last season, while I am also very happy with Fridolin and Chassem's contribution."

Hopeful upstarts
Champions in 2007, FC Olimpi Rustavi also have title aspirations after Khvicha Kasrashvili assembled an almost whole new squad over the summer. "We were fifth last season but such a result would not be good enough this time," said Kasrashvili. "We are ready to play for the top spot." They are not the only side with such aspirations, with Nestor Mumladze's steady FC WIT Georgia, FC Lokomotiv Tbilisi and 2006 champions FC Sioni Bolnisi, under former Dinamo star Otar Korgalidze, still hoping.

 

Last updated: 16/09/08 13.41CET

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