Vardar v Zenit background

Macedonian football history will be made in Group L on matchday one as the nation hosts its first UEFA club competition group game, with Vardar welcoming Zenit.

Vardar celebrate a qualifying victory against Fenerbahçe
Vardar celebrate a qualifying victory against Fenerbahçe ©Igor Panevski

This week, football fans watching UEFA Europa League matches in stadiums, online and on TV will witness the premiere of the new UEFA RESPECT TV ads, called #EqualGame. The adverts feature Ada Hegerberg, Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo and amateur players and will run throughout the season to promote inclusion, diversity and accessibility in European Football with the motto "Everyone has the right to enjoy football, no matter who you are, where you're from, or how you play." More information on the campaign and on the advertisements can be found in the accompanying media release and on the campaign website:

Macedonian football history will be made in UEFA Europa League Group L as the nation hosts its first UEFA club competition group stage game, Vardar welcoming Zenit.

Previous meetings
• The sides are meeting for the first time, and it is Zenit's first competitive encounter with a team from FYR Macedonia.

• In their only past tie against a Russian club, Vardar unexpectedly eliminated CSKA Moskva in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, holding on for a 1-1 home draw after a 2-1 success in Moscow.

• That win remains the only Macedonian victory in eight UEFA club competition meetings with Russian sides: W1 D4 L3.

Form guide
• Vardar have won all three of their European home matches this season – against Malmö and København in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, and then against Fenerbahçe in the play-offs for this competition – conceding just once in the process.

• Zenit have lost three of their last four UEFA away fixtures, the exception a 2-0 win at Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv in this season's UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.

• Domestic champions for the third straight year last season, Vardar are the first club from FYR Macedonia to make it to the group stage of a major UEFA competition, overcoming Fenerbahçe home and away in the play-offs.

• UEFA Cup winners in 2008, Zenit finished third in Russia last term; they have competed in either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League group stage in every season since 2010/11, playing European football in the spring on each occasion.

Links and trivia
• The journey from St Petersburg to Skopje is around 2,100km.

• Zenit have played 158 UEFA games to date; Vardar – named in honour of the river that runs through Skopje – just 64.

The coaches
• Cedomir Janevski returned to coach Vardar in August 2017, having previously served the Skopje side as a defender from 1982–89. He spent many of the intervening years in Belgium, where he played for and coached Club Brugge, among other teams.

• Roberto Mancini took charge of Zenit in June 2017. A European Cup Winners' Cup winner as a player with Sampdoria in 1989/90 and Lazio in 1998/99, he coached Internazionale and Manchester City to league titles, and more recently claimed a Turkish Cup at Galatasaray.