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Who are Dortmund's opponents Qäbälä?

Borussia Dortmund's matchday three neighbours were nicknamed in honour of a nearby radar station and have come a long way since cows stalked their training base.

Qäbälä are now very much on the European footballing radar
Qäbälä are now very much on the European footballing radar ©Qäbälä FK

The third Azerbaijani side to make it to the UEFA Europa League group stage after Neftçi and Qarabağ, Qäbälä face their toughest challenge yet as they take on Borussia Dortmund in their next two Group C games. UEFA.com discovers what lies in store for the Bundesliga side.

The early years
Founded in 1995 as Göy Göl (literally 'the Blue Lake'), the name of their home town in northwest Azerbaijan. They won the second-flight title as Gilan in 2006 then moved to the ancient city of Qabala before making their top-flight debut, becoming Qäbälä in its honour in August 2007.

Their nickname, Radarlar (the Radars), comes from the now mothballed local Soviet-era radar station, designed as a missile early-warning system during the Cold War.

The club achieved a major PR coup when they brought in former Arsenal and England mainstay Tony Adams as their coach for the 2010/11 season. It was an eye-opener for the former defender ("one time, a cow walked across the training field," he told a reporter), but standards have improved. Adams returned to the club as sporting director in January 2015.

Qäbälä boss Roman Grygorchuk
Qäbälä boss Roman Grygorchuk©Qäbälä FK

Group stage breakthrough
Ukrainian coach Roman Hrygorchuk arrived midway through last season, having won three Latvian titles with Ventspils and steered Chornomorets Odesa into the UEFA Europa League round of 32 in 2013/14.

Under Hrygorchuk, a second successive third-place finish earned Qäbälä a UEFA Europa League qualifying slot, and they unexpectedly defeated Panathinaikos on away goals in the play-offs to become – along with Rosenborg – one of two sides to make it from the first qualifying round to the group stage this term.

Ones to watch
Qäbälä's old boys include the likes of Jamaica striker Deon Burton, Russia's Marat Izmaylov and former Ajax starlet Lorenzo Ebecilio – a measure of their ability to bring decent foreign stars to Azerbaijan. Key among the current crop are three Ukrainians – goalkeeper Dmytro Bezotosniy, centre-back Vitaliy Vernydub and holding midfielder Olexiy Gai – with the versatile Arif Dashdemirov the pick of the locals.

Their Brazilian captain Dodô, 28, is as good as local now, having been with the club since 2011. The midfielder scored both their goals against Panathinaikos in the play-offs and on 4 October 2015 registered the fastest strike in national-league history, eight seconds into a 6-0 rout of Xäzär Länkäran.

Qäbälä fans watch a UEFA Europa League game
Qäbälä fans watch a UEFA Europa League game©Qäbälä FK

How do they play?
Qäbälä can play a British-style aerial game but have the skills to play flowing, short-passing football too. Primarily a defensive side in Europe, Qäbälä tend to line up with four attack-minded players regardless, with character a key strength: late goals have been a speciality this season. "Every team in our group is strong and dangerous, but that doesn't mean we will lose every game," Gai said. "We try our best to get positive results regardless of how famous our opponents are."

What they may lack, however, is an out-an-out goalscorer who can create goals from nothing, or a recognised playmaker, meaning balls from out on the wings carry much of their threat.

Natural beauty
Dortmund would do well to stick around for a while after the final whistle. The Qabala region is known for spectacular landscapes – note the Caucasus mountains depicted on the club crest.

"Qabala is not a big city but it has ideal conditions for playing football," said defender Vernydub, with the club's facilities having come on in great leaps since Adams first touched down.

The Qabala region is know for its dramatic scenery
The Qabala region is know for its dramatic scenery©Incity.az