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Partizan plan baptism of fire for Neftçi

Vladimir Vermezović led FK Partizan through the group stage in 2004/05 and, back in charge in Belgrade, is aiming to match his previous success – starting against debutants Neftçi PFK.

Partizan's Stefan Šćepović celebrates scoring in UEFA Champions League qualifying
Partizan's Stefan Šćepović celebrates scoring in UEFA Champions League qualifying ©Anne Aquilina

FK Partizan will look to repeat their 2004/05 group stage success under Vladimir Vermezović as they start their UEFA Europa League Group H campaign against newcomers Neftçi PFK.

Previous meetings
• The clubs are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition.

• Partizan, in their only previous encounter with Azeri opposition, came up against Neftçi's capital rivals İnter Bakı PİK in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, drawing 1-1 in Baku and winning the tie 2-0 on home soil.

• Partizan's arch-rivals FK Crvena zvezda proved too strong for Neftçi over two legs in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup qualifying round; 'Red Star' came back from 2-0 down to grind out a 3-2 win in Baku then beat Neftçi 1-0 in Belgrade.

Match background
• Partizan are embarking on their fifth group stage campaign in this competition, but have not made it through to the knockout stages since the inaugural UEFA Cup group phase in 2004/05, when their coach – as now – was Vermezović.

• Their record in nine UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stage home games is W2 D2 L5.

• Neftçi are the first Azeri side to make it to the group stage of a UEFA club competition. With seven league titles, they are the most successful team in Azerbaijan since independence, and set a Soviet-era high-water mark for the republic by finishing third in the USSR's top division in 1966.

• Neftçi's 3-1 win at APOEL FC in this season's UEFA Europa League play-offs was their first victory – and indeed the first time they had avoided defeat – in six away games in this competition.

• That victory also ended a run of eight games without a win (two draws, six defeats) on the road in European competition since a 2-1 success at FH Hafnarfjördur in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League first qualifying round.

Team facts
• Partizan's next goal will be their 300th in UEFA club competition; this is their 192nd UEFA game.

• Partizan goalkeeper Radiša Ilić celebrates his 35th birthday on the day of the match.

• Neftçi have fielded two notable Serbian players in the past: goalkeeper Vladimir Mićović (2005-10) and Belgrade-born striker Branimir Subašić (2005-08), who took Azeri citizenship during his time with the club and now plays for Azerbaijan at international level.

• The current Neftçi squad features another Serb, goalkeeper Saša Stamenković.

• Partizan defender Aleksandar Lazevski and Neftçi counterpart Igor Mitreski were team-mates at international level with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

• Partizan coach Vermezović started his career as a defender for the club, moving abroad later to play for Real Sporting de Gijón, UD Salamanca, Panionios GSS and Hannover 96. He then coached Partizan feeder club FK Teleoptik before taking charge of the senior side from 2004-05, returning in 2012 following spells at FC Spartak Trnava and South Africa's Kaizer Chiefs FC.

• Boyukagha Hajiyev is the coach of Neftçi. A coach and player at now-defunct MFK Araz-Naxçivan, he spent several years coaching in Iran and was Vagif Sadygov's assistant with the national team in 2005. Having won a first national title in what was initially a caretaker spell FK Bakı in 2005/06, Hajiyev won the crown again in 2011/12, his first season at Neftçi.