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Qäbälä v PAOK background

Azerbaijani contenders Qäbäla have battled all the way through from the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round to earn a Group C opener against PAOK.

Qäbälä after making it through the second qualifying round
Qäbälä after making it through the second qualifying round ©Abbas Zahidi

Qäbäla FK have reason to be proud having made it all the way from the first qualifying round to the UEFA Europa League group stage, with PAOK FC their first Group C visitors.

Previous meetings
• The sides are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition and this is PAOK's first encounter with Azerbaijani opponents.

• Qäbälä have cause for optimism, having eliminated PAOK's league rivals Panathinaikos FC on away goals in this season's UEFA Europa League play-offs, drawing 0-0 at home and 2-2 in Athens.

• Oddly, all four games between Azeri and Greek clubs in UEFA competition have ended in draws – in addition to the two Qäbälä v Panathinaikos games, İnter Bakı PİK and Asteras Tripolis FC drew 1-1 home and away in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League second qualifying round. Asteras went through on penalties.

Form guide
• Qäbälä are unbeaten in four European home games this season (W3 D1) and have not conceded in that run.

• PAOK are without a European away win this season (D2 L1).

• Qäbälä are making their UEFA group stage debut this season; this is only their second European campaign.

• PAOK have featured in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stages in five previous campaigns; they have made it to the knockout phase three times.

Trivia and links
• The journey from Salonika to Baku – where this game will be played – is just over 2,250km.

• Qäbälä and Rosenborg BK are the only sides who have made it all the way from the first qualifying round to the group stage in this season's competition.

• Dimitar Berbatov can make his European debut for PAOK; his only previous game in Baku was Bulgaria's 0-0 friendly draw against Azerbaijan in November 2004. He last played in this competition for Tottenham Hotspur FC, in March 2008.

The coaches
• Qäbälä's Ukrainian coach Roman Grygorchuk made his name in Latvia, where he won three domestic titles with FK Ventspils from 2006-08. He took charge at Qäbälä in December 2014 after a four-year spell at FC Chornomorets Odesa.

• PAOK have been led by former Croatia defender Igor Tudor since June. Now 37, he won two league titles with Juventus, and started his coaching career with HNK Hajduk Split – the club where he started and ended his playing career – winning the Croatian Cup in 2013.

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