The Champions League playoff round kicks off this week with six games being played. The vast number of teams that qualified for the pre-group stage in qualifying has been dwindled down to just 12 clubs. The league path of the qualifying tournament has just four teams left with Russia’s Krasnodar and Greece’s PAOK meeting on Tuesday night.
PAOK shocked Benfica last week in Greece to qualify for the playoff round. The Greeks won 2-1 and were up 2-0 at one point in the fixture before the Portuguese club pulled a goal back. Now, the Greek team will head to Russia for the first leg of the playoff round. It won’t be easy as Krasnodar finished third in the Russian Premier League last term. They have played seven games in the Russian Premier League this season already and will have far fitter players than PAOK.
PAOK played in both the second and third qualifying rounds of the Champions League to reach the playoffs. The clubs they defeated were no pushovers. PAOK defeated Besiktas in the second qualifying round and Benfica in the third qualifying round. PAOK will push Krasnodar the entire way.
The Champions League playoff round is two legs unlike the previous qualifying rounds. The format should favour the stronger team.
Krasnodar’s third place finish in the Russian Premier League in 2019-20 allowed them to qualify for the Champions League playoff round. Just two other teams are in the tournament in the league path and those clubs are Gent and Dynamo Kiev.
Manager Murad Musayev’s team have played seven matches on the domestic front. Krasnodar did not have much time off between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. They started the new campaign well with a 3W-2D-2L record. They have tallied 14 goals and allowed six goals to opponents. Krasnodar are right on their expected goals total of 14.67. Krasnodar are just six points off of the top of the Russian Premier League table.
PAOK may not have played as many league games as Krasnodar on the domestic front, but they have played twice in the Champions League qualifying rounds. Along with their two matches in the Champions League qualifying rounds, PAOK have played twice in the Greek Super League. They took four points from their opening six available. However, PAOK suffered a 1-1 draw against Atromitos over the weekend.
Although PAOK have played three fewer games in total, don’t count them out. They have played and won against some difficult teams this season already.
Krasnodar are led in goals on the domestic front by Marcus Berg. The Swedish striker should play a big part from the start this week against Krasnodar. Berg has scored four goals in the Russian Premier League in seven appearances. He averages a goal every 154 minutes in Russia and has added two assists. Berg has been the focal point of Krasnodar’s attack and PAOK must stifle his participation. Berg has had a hand in a goal for Krasnodar every 102.7 minutes.
Midfielder Remy Cabella has added three goals and one assists in five league appearances for Krasnodar. HIs play in the centre of the midfield for Krasnodar will be important for putting pressure on PAOK in the final third.
PAOK got goals from different players in the previous Champions League qualifying rounds. The Greeks got goals from Christos Tzolis (two) and Dimitris Pelkas against Besiktas. Dimitris Giannoulis and Andrija Zivkovic got the goals against Benfica. Both goals against Benfica came in the second half. The 2-1 scoreline looks a bit closer than the game actually was. Benfica’s goal came deep in second-half stoppage-time.
The one-off tie really helped PAOK in the previous round. The two-legged format should take away the advantage they previous held.
Both teams to score - BET NOW
Both teams are coming off of matches in which both teams scored goals. Krasnodar collected a 7-2 home win against Khimki at the weekend. PAOK grabbed a 1-1 draw versus Atromitos. PAOK’s previous matches in the Champions League qualifying rounds against Besiktas and Benfica both finished with both teams finding the back of the net. PAOK have proven they can score goals. They should get at least one away goal to take home with them.
Over 2.5 goals scored - BET NOW
PAOK’s second and third qualifying round matches finished with over 2.5 goals tallied. The Greeks should be able to get a goal to take back to Greece. Krasnodar needs to get a goal of their own and not let the Greek side return home with an away goal. Krasnodar’s last two Russian Premier League matches finished with over 2.5 goals scored.
Marcus Berg to score anytime - BET NOW
Berg has a major impact on the Krasnodar attack. He has scored four times and added two assists in the league. The Russian club have scored 14 times on the domestic front with Berg contributing to 43% of the team’s league goals. Berg averages 3.65 shots per 90 minutes and 0.80 expected goals per 90 minutes in the Russian Premier League.
All four of Berg’s goals in the Russian Premier League have come from around the six-yard box. He doesn’t score may goals from outside the penalty area and is yet to connect from long-range this season. Just one of Berg’s shots this season has actually come from outside the 18-yard box. Even then, it was just a yard away from the penalty area.
PAOK are a strong team. There is no doubt Abel Ferreira’s side will fancy their chances of getting a result versus Krasnodar. A draw could be on the cards. PAOK’s most important task is to get a goal to take back home with them and keep the scoreline low. Tuesday night’s match should finish in a Krasnodar win or draw between the sides. PAOK could then overturn the tie and progress back at home in Greece.
Krasnodar Stadium is the host venue for Krasnodar vs POAK.
Krasnodar vs POAK kicks-off at 20:00 on Tuesday 22 September.