Vardar v Zenit: Scouting our upcoming Europa League opponents

Our friends at macedonianfootball.com have prepared a detailed report on our first Europa League group stage opponents, FK Vardar. Get to know who's standing between us and 3 points this Thursday.
Vardar v Zenit: Scouting our upcoming Europa League opponents

FK Vardar were founded in 1947 and so 2017 is the club’s 70 year anniversary. Vardar are based in the capital city of Skopje and are the best-supported club in the country.

Cedomir Janevski is the current head coach of the team, but only took over on 16 August this year so has been in charge of the club for less than a month. The team changed manager between the games with FC Copenhagen in the Champions League third qualifying round and Fenerbahce in the Europa League play-off. The club’s Champions League exit led to the club’s ownership to feel that a new voice was needed to motivate the players ahead of the Fenerbahce games. They were proven right as Vardar played masterfully to eliminate the Turkish giants and make history as the first Macedonian club to reach the group stages of the Europa League.

Janevski is a highly respected coach. He is somebody you hire if you are serious about winning. He has a respectable track record of managing teams such as Club Brugge (Belgium), Crvena Zvezda (Serbia) and the Macedonian national team.

Vardar normally play with a 4-2-3-1 formation with their typical starting XI as follows:

Gacevski, Hambardzumyan, Grncarov, Novak, Brdarovski, Nikolov Markovic/Gligorov, Jighauri, Juan Felipe, Blazevski, Barseghyan.

One position remains unclear (Markovic/Gligorov) as Vardar recently sold Stefan Spirovski to Ferencvaros (Hungary) and he was a team regular. They quickly brought in Vanja Markovic as his replacement, but he only arrived at Vardar a week ago. So, Janevski may choose to start veteran Nikola Gligorov in defensive midfield to partner Boban Nikolov, as opposed to Markovic.

Besides Spirovski, Vardar lost two other key players this summer. They sold striker Jonathan Boareto to Al-Gharafa (Qatar) and mutually terminated the contract of winger Damir Kojasevic.

As for additions, Vardar signed five players this summer, defender Visar Musliu, midfielders Vanja Markovic and Besar Iseni and strikers Maksim Maksimov and Ytalo. However, Vardar have experienced problems registering Maksimov, a player who happens to be Russian. The club are in dispute with his former club, Trakai from Lithuania, who have threatened legal action against both Vardar and Maksimov as they are claiming the transfer was not legal and so Vardar have not been able to register Maksimov for the Europa League. He will be a big absence as the club were counting on him to be an integral part of the team.

Still, even without Maksimov, Vardar have a very decent team by Macedonian standards. They feature many current or former Macedonian national team players as well as other internationals, Hovhannes Hambardzumyan and Tigran Barseghyan both play for Armenia, while Jaba Jighauri plays for Georgia.

This summer, Vardar has been unstoppable at home. As a matter of fact, they won all three home games in European qualifying, beating very respectable opponents, Malmo (Sweden), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Fenerbahce (Turkey) all were beaten in Skopje.

Given Vardar’s record at home, it will be a tough game for Zenit. The away side will be favorites, but escaping Skopje with 3 points will not be a cakewalk. It will require Zenit to be at their best for 90 minutes because underestimating Vardar could be dangerous and costly.

Many thanks to the guys at macedonianfootball.com for preparing this report, be sure to check them out. Thanks to gol.mk for the use of the photo also!