“Balkani”: we meet the opponent of “Viktorie” in the Conference League
After the draw of the group stage of the Conference League, the opponents of “Viktoria” in this tournament will be “Dinamo” Zagreb, “Astana” and “Balkani”. It is the club from Kosovo that looks like the main mystery of the quartet and needs a more detailed introduction, which we will now do.
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The least experience in European Cups, but the most – in the group stage of the Conference League
It so happened that neither “Dinamo”, nor “Viktoria”, nor “Astana” had experience of playing in the group stage of the Conference League. Despite their participation in the Champions League and Europa League, these clubs have never entered the field of this tournament. While the Kosovo club “Balkani” is in the opposite situation.
“Balkani” first entered the European scene only last year and immediately managed to advance to the group stage of the Conference League. A year later, it repeated this achievement again after three successful qualifying rounds following an unsuccessful attempt in the Champions League.
The team went through a serious journey in qualifying
In this European season “Balkani” suffered a 2:4 (2:0, 0:4) defeat to Bulgarian “Ludogorets” in the Champions League. This recalls a similar story with “Astana”, which also won at home but suffered an away defeat in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
In the Conference League, the Kosovo team showed its skills by beating Northern Ireland’s “Larne” 7:1 (3:0, 4:1), Gibraltar’s “Lincoln Red Imps” 5:1 (2:0, 3:1) and Belarus’ BATE 4:2 (4:1, 0:1). Despite the excellent result against the last opponent, it should be remembered that BATE has not participated in the group stages of European Cups for five years, and only in 2020 the team won one of the seven qualifying encounters.
Last season, “Balkani” won four points in the group of the League of Conferences, finishing last in the group with Turkish “Sivaspor”, Romanian “CFR” and Czech “Slavia”. Ahead of the start of the new season, the Kosovo club remains the dark horse of its group.
As for the level of the players, it will certainly be very difficult for them to compete with more skilful opponents. But thanks to the will and great motivation to declare themselves, “Balkani” can definitely bring a surprise, even more than one.
The overall prediction of the group tournament result:
“Astana” will be the only team in this group that did not have the experience of playing in the group stages of European Cups last year. “Dinamo” and “Viktoria” took part in the Champions League, while “Balkani” already had experience of the Conference League.
“Dinamo” is the undisputed favourite of the group. Although the Zagreb club currently looks weaker than a month ago, before their Champions League exit and the sale of key players, they still have quality players who can take the team to the playoffs.
In order to compete with teams from Croatia and the Czech Republic, “Astana” must remain in optimal form. If “Astana” finds the right rhythm, they can cause problems for the Czech team.
“Balkani” is on paper the least known participant of the group, but it must not be underestimated. With the right motivation they can surprise even more experienced opponents. Their 2-0 home win over “Ludogorets” is a great example.
“Dinamo can be the group favourite thanks to their experience and stability. The Croatian club may have problems, but in the long run it is not so important. The fight for second place could be interesting. “Viktoria” is considered the favorite, but “Astana” has a chance to prove its superiority in practice. It will be difficult, but possible.
In this group, any team is capable of causing problems to any opponent. If we look at the situation as realistically as possible, “Dinamo” should get the first place, “Viktoria” the second, and “Astana” should fight for the third place with “Balkani”.