Partizan and Astana are both looking to avoid finishing bottom of Group L as they conclude their European seasons in Belgrade.
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Partizan and Astana are both hoping to avoid finishing bottom of Group L as they end their respective European campaigns in Belgrade.
• Partizan looked set to keep their hopes of qualification alive when they led 2-0 at unbeaten AZ Alkmaar on Matchday 5 with just three minutes of regular time left on the clock, but the game ended 2-2, knocking the Serbian side out of the competition. Astana claimed their first points of the section the same night with a 2-1 home win against Manchester United. The champions of Kazakhstan will need another win in the Serbian capital if they are to swap positions with third-placed Partizan at the foot of the Group L table.
• Two goals from Nigerian striker Umar Sadiq gave Partizan a 2-1 victory at Astana on Matchday 2 in what was their first UEFA match against opposition from Kazakhstan and Astana's maiden encounter with a club from Serbia.
• Third in the Serbian Superliga last term, Partizan won the domestic cup for the fourth year running, defeating league champions Crvena zvezda 1-0 in the final. In Europe they came through three UEFA Europa League qualifiers before losing out to Beşiktaş in the play-offs (1-1 h, 0-3 a).
• This season Partizan entered the competition a round later, defeating Connah's Quay and Malatyaspor and edging past Norwegian side Molde in the play-offs (2-1 h, 1-1 a) to book a sixth group stage berth. After failing to gain further progress on their first four attempts, the Serbian side succeeded in 2017/18 before falling in the round of 32 to Viktoria Plzeň (1-1 h, 0-2 a).
• Victorious at home in all three of this season's qualifying games, Partizan were unbeaten in Belgrade by European opposition in 11 matches (W8 D3) until Manchester United defeated them 1-0 on Matchday 3. However, they have won just four of their 17 home UEFA Europa League group stage fixtures, losing eight.
• Astana collected their fifth straight domestic title in 2018 while also playing no fewer than 16 European matches in that calendar year, the last six in the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they finished third in their section with eight points. This season they again came through four summer qualifying ties, the first a defeat by CFR Cluj in the UEFA Champions League, before eventually squeezing past BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League play-offs (3-0 h, 0-2 a).
• Astana's maiden UEFA Europa League group campaign in 2016/17 ended unsuccessfully with five points, but they doubled that number the following season to finish second in their section and qualify for a first ever crack at springtime European football. The extended campaign lasted just two matches, Sporting CP overcoming them 6-4 on aggregate in the round of 32.
• A 4-0 win in Malta against Valletta in this season's UEFA Europa League third qualifying round is Astana's only victory in their last 12 European away matches (D4 L7). In the group stage their record outside Kazakhstan is W2 D2 L7; the latest reverse, 0-6 at AZ Alkmaar on Matchday 3, was the club's heaviest European defeat.
Links and trivia
• Astana made it six domestic championship titles in succession on 3 November, eventually finishing up with 69 points from their 33 matches, one ahead of runners-up Kairat.
• Astana's Antonio Rukavina is a Serbian international who played for Partizan in 2007 and captained the Belgrade club.
• Rukavina and fellow Serbian international Zoran Tošić (Partizan) are godfathers to each other's children.
• Although he plays international football for Kazakhstan, Astana goalkeeper Nenad Erić was born in Serbia and began his career there.
• Partizan's Vladimir Stojković was in goal for Serbia when Kazakhstan claimed their first competitive win as a UEFA member in a 2-1 UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying victory in Almaty on 24 March 2007.
• Partizan's Montenegrin midfielder Aleksandar Šćekić celebrates his 28th birthday on the day of the game.
• Short of managerial experience but a key figure at the club with whom he started his career in the early 1990s, Savo Milošević was appointed as Partizan's head coach in March 2019 and within less than two months had steered the Belgrade club to victory in the Serbian Cup. A powerful left-footed striker, he scored 37 goals in 102 international appearances, five of them for Yugoslavia at UEFA EURO 2000, where he was the tournament's joint top marksman. He left Partizan for Aston Villa in 1995 and later played in Spain (Zaragoza, Espanyol, Celta Vigo, Osasuna) and Italy (Parma) before ending his career with a Russian league title at Rubin.
• A free-scoring Ukrainian striker, Roman Hrygorchuk has made his name as a coach in eastern Europe, starting out in Latvia, where he won three league titles and two domestic cups during a four-year spell with Ventspils. He went on to coach Chornomorets Odesa in his homeland and Azerbaijan's Gabala for similar periods, overseeing UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns for both, before replacing Stanimir Stoilov at Kazakh champions Astana in June 2018. He missed the latter weeks of last year's league title win for personal reasons but has overseen the 2019 triumph from start to finish.