Having tasted defeat in three of their four matches so far in UEFA Europa League (UEL) Group H, Red Star Belgrade now face a win or bust scenario against Trabzonspor if they are to play springtime UEL football. A consolation prize of a transfer to the UECL also remains on offer, but even that could be beyond them should Monaco better their result here, though they can take heart from the fact Monaco face table-topping Ferencváros.
Red Star should be confident of at least taking their push for a UEL knockout spot to the final day given they have won ten of their last 16 European games in Belgrade (D4, L2). That fine form has been replicated in the Serbian SuperLiga, where Red Star sit top after an unbeaten start (W13, D2) and impressively they haven’t lost a home league game since April 2017, which can perhaps be portioned to the daunting tunnel the away side must walk through into the cauldron of noise at the Rajko Mitić Stadium.
With some of the fiercest footballing rivalries in the world coming in Turkey, Trabzonspor may not be fazed by what will be a raucous home crowd in Belgrade. That is perhaps until you look at Trabzonspor’s wretched travelling record in the UEL, losing their last five away games in this competition and conceding an average of 2.4 goals per game along the way.
A clean sheet victory against Sivasspor at the weekend (1-0) was a good warm-up for this mammoth clash then, as Trabzonspor seek to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to five matches (W2, D2). The H2H tiebreaker ruling sees Trabzonspor come into this clash above Monaco and in the second UEL knockout spot, but with Ferencváros still within reach and a showdown against the Hungarian side on the final matchday, extending their current unbeaten run with a win here would leave them in with a chance of topping the group next week.
Players to watch: Red Star may look to Aleksandar Pešić to be the hero given he has scored the decisive goal in victory across his last four scoring appearances. Meanwhile, Marek Hamšík opened the scoring for Trabzonspor at the weekend, just as he did in the reverse H2H.
Hot stat: Turkish clubs have won all three of their UEL meetings with Serbian sides.
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