Season 1 - Update 6 - November/December/January Update - Europe, it's been a pleasure!
With the Azeri league becoming very quiet over the winter months, there was only a handful of competitive games to be played over this period, however they were still very important to what we wanted to achieve and it was important that we didn't let our European run distract us from our domestic duties.
November & December's Topaz Premyer Liqasi Results:
Another hammering for Sumqayit here, and again 4 different scorers. Although after this game they sacked there manager and poached our reserve team manager who has strong ties to the club in an attempt to survive the drop.
Another tough game here against the league favourites pre season, we got off to a great start, however an equaliser and then another sending off meant we were happy to leave with a point.
Whenever we drop points, we always seem to bounce back straight away which says a lot about the lads mindsets. Our South American duo were on top form here and shared the goals between themselves
November & December's Europa Conference League Results
We knew before we set off to London that no one was expecting anything from us here. I told the lads to just enjoy every minute of it and they did exactly that. We started the game perfectly with such an early goal, and then defended with our lives for 87 minutes. Tired minds and legs got a hold of us though and Harry Winks scored a last minute equaliser. Couldn't have been more proud of the team here.
AEK Athens (A)
At this point qualification was impossible, so we could just relax and play our natural game. It was a joy to watch us in Athens on this occasion as we just had too much for AEK. A 6 minute hat trick from Colli in his finest night in a Neftçi shirt.
Amazing what you can do with no pressure right? Back to back wins came in our final group game against Trabzonspor, this was another tough one though and it took a late winner from Harramiz to finally get one over on them.
So our first European run ended after 3 fantastic results. So proud of the team as we were never heavily beaten in any match, only 2 defeats, and actually finished the group as the top scorers, albeit joint with Trabzonspor. Our front 3 are proving a real threat for any side which is brilliant to see. A lot of lessons learnt, and it's important now that we carry on this form into the second half of the domestic season.
January's Milli Futbol Kuboku Results (1st Round):
A routine win in the domestic Cup here against lower league opposition in Zaqatala. Lawal & Ramon with the goals to book our place in the Quarter Final where we will play Premier Division side Zira.
November, December & January Overview
So we went unbeaten over this period which is fantastic and a real credit to the team and staff. We played a couple of friendlies against local lower division sides also just to keep the players ticking over and to help them out financially. Now the European run is over it is only 1 game a week from here on out so we can really focus on a big push from February where we start with our cup quarter final at Zira.
January Transfer News
In terms of the January transfer window, I didn't have any specific plans before hand. However FC Ufa came in with a bid of £150k for our central midfielder Romain Basque, he wasn't a regular starter for me due to playing my Azeri CM there for league rule purposes, however I wasn't prepared to let him leave that cheap. They came back with a couple more improved offers and he left for Russia for £250k. Because of this I just needed to find some cover and that is where we found Maksym Kazakov. He wasn't being used in Ukraine, so we are bringing him in on a loan until the end of the season where we have an option to buy at any point for only £2.5k which I feel is an absolute steal. The other 2 outgoings were not in my first team plans, I try to sell all my dead wood within Azerbaijan to help the other teams out, however Haciyev decided to try out Latvia so he went to RFS, and Asgarov stayed domestically to play for Qabala, albeit the reserves for now.
Unfortunately however we did have some bad news in this window. Our star man Jorge Correa's contract is expiring in the summer and he has no intention of renewing. San Lorenzo offered him a contract to return back to his homeland, I tried to offer him out to clubs to try and get some funds in for him but he had his mind set on playing back home. I cannot argue with that, so he stays for now but will be leaving us at the end of the season.
The same goes for our Brazilian striker/winger Ramon. He is in the same situation and decided he wants to return back to Brazil. Goias offered him a contract which he accepted, so he will also be leaving this summer. An early switch with positions meant Harramiz has been taking up the ST position, however Ramon was very useful to bring off the bench with his versatility and it is sad to see these guys leaving us. Lets hope we can give them a good send off by wrapping up the League title.
@J_ames - Totally agree mate. The squad I inherited is severely underrated it seems as they have Qarabag heavy favourites before a ball was kicked but on paper the squads are pretty even. They have more financial muscle obviously but these players are more than capable of winning trophies domestically. The league is ranked relatively high at 26th in the coefficient at the start of the game just behind Romania, that opens up 3 European Spots (1st = 1st Round UCL Qualifying & the rest go into the 2nd Qualifying round of the Conference League) however 4th place is also a Conference League place depending on the winner of the domestic cup but because ourselves and Qarabag are so dominant it pretty much always will be, and with only 8 teams in the league it seems as though those teams could be fighting relegation 1 week and within a couple of good results fighting for Europe lol. Thanks for reading and the comment mate!