The Azerbaijani football (soccer) team Qarabag, along with Kazakhstan’s team Astana, will be taking the pitch at the playoff round of UEFA’s next tournament, known as the Europa League.
Qarabag lost its chance to make it through the Champions League knockout stage, after being outclassed 1-2 by the Belarussian team BATE, as a result of a two-legged tie on August 14. The defeat pushed the Azerbaijani team down to the Europa League playoffs, which is considered the second top-level club competition, just behind the Champions League.
Qarabag’s rival in the playoffs will be Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova. Their first game will be played at Stadionul Sheriff in Tiraspol on August 23, and the second game will be played in Baku a week later.
Azerbaijan and Moldova last played against one another last year in the Champions League qualification round, when Qarabag secured a 2-1 aggregate win.
Astana lost its change to make it to the Champions League in a 0-3 aggregate defeat against the Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, on August 14. With that loss, the team joins 41 European teams that are to play in the Europa League playoffs.
Astana will square off against the Cyprus team known as APOEL in the first leg of a two-legged tie at GSP Stadium in Nicosia, on August 23. The second match will take place at the Astana Arena in Kazakhstan’s capital of the same name on August 30 and decide who will be heading to Europa League group stages.
Russia’s Spartak Moscow is the only team from the Caspian that will be playing in the Europa League group, thanks to taking third place in the national Russian Premier League.
The 2018–19 UEFA Europa League is now in its 48th season. Azerbaijan’s Olympic Stadium in Baku will host the final game on May 29. The winners of the 2018–19 season will play against the winners of the 2018–19 UEFA Champions League in the 2019 UEFA Super Cup. The Europa League title will also secure the right to automatically qualify for the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League group stage.