There is everything to play for in Belgrade as Crvena zvezda host Köln in a winner-takes-all showdown with the teams level on six points and chasing second place in Group H.
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There is all to play for in Belgrade as Crvena zvezda host Köln in a winner-takes-all Group H showdown.
• The two clubs are locked on six points apiece – four behind group winners Arsenal – and victory for either team will secure their qualification as runners-up. If the match is drawn, Crvena zvezda will finish above Köln on head-to-head rankings, and they will go through unless BATE Borisov, one point in arrears, win the other match away to Arsenal.
• Crvena zvezda prevailed 1-0 at Köln on matchday two thanks to a spectacular 30th-minute strike from Richmond Boakye.
• In the sides' only other meetings, Christoph Daum's Köln overcame a 2-0 away deficit to eliminate Dragan Šekularac's Crvena zvezda from the 1989/90 UEFA Cup third round with a 3-0 victory in Cologne. Crvena zvezda went on to win the European Cup the following season, making Köln the last team to eliminate them from continental competition before that triumph.
• Crvena zvezda's record in 30 games against German opposition is an evenly-balanced W13 D4 L13. At home it is W9 D4 L2.
• Köln have won two and lost three of their five matches against Serbian outfits.
• Crvena zvezda have not conceded more than one goal in any of their last seven European home games (W4 D2 L1). They have shipped just two goals in Group H but only scored twice themselves.
• Köln have lost their last four away fixtures in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League. They are bidding to become the first club to reach the UEFA Europa League knockout phase after losing their opening three group matches.
• Second in Serbia last term, and UEFA Cup runners-up in 1978/79, Crvena zvezda last contested the group stage in 2007/08, when they lost all four games.
• Runners-up to Real Madrid in the two-legged 1986 UEFA Cup final, Köln are back in Europe for the first time in 20 years. Their only previous group campaigns were in the UEFA Intertoto Cup; these are their first autumnal European fixtures for a quarter of a century.
Links and trivia
• The journey from Cologne to Belgrade is around 1,200km.
• Köln's Serbian midfielder Miloš Jojić started his career with Crvena zvezda's local rivals Partizan.
• Crvena zvezda's Filip Stojković (1860 München 2016/17) and Vujadin Savić (Dynamo Dresden 2012–13, Arminia Bielefeld 2014) have both played club football in Germany.
• Crvena zvezda are one of three teams to have made it all the way from first qualifying round to group stage this season, along with Skënderbeu and Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and the only one of the three still in with a chance of further progress.
• Crvena zvezda striker Boakye was the joint-top scorer in UEFA Europa League qualifying this season with seven goals – level with Trakai's Maksim Maksimov.
• Suspended for next match if booked: Guelor Kanga, Srdjan Babić (Crvena zvezda); Sehrou Guirassy (Köln).
• Vladan Milojević returned to Crvena zvezda in June 2017, having played for the club in 1996. He spent much of his playing career in Greece with Panathinaikos and Iraklis, and headed back there as coach of Panionios in 2016/17.
• Youth team coach Stefan Ruthenbeck was put in charge of Köln until the winter break on 3 December following the dismissal of the club's longest-serving head coach, Peter Stöger. Ruthenbeck had previous spells at German second-tier clubs Aalen and Greuther Fürth.