Two sides who were very evenly matched in the first leg of the Champions League Second Round Qualifiers meet once again this Wednesday at Dalga Arena. Neither Qarabag nor Dundalk were able to get the upper hand in their first meeting, with the final score ending 1-1. Qarabag arrive back in Azerbaijan with an away goal to their name, which could prove vital in this matchup and leaves Dundalk playing catch-up.
The hosts will be hoping they can maintain their strong run of form, which has seen them now go six straight games without a defeat. Qarabag have proven a tough side to beat whilst playing at home, with their last defeat on home soil coming 12 games ago. Before facing Dundalk, Qarabag went up against Partizani in the first round of qualifying and after drawing 0-0 in the first leg, went on to win 2-0 in the second meeting. The hosts started well against Dundalk in their previous meeting, scoring inside five minutes but could not capitalise for the rest of the game.
Dundalk may arrive in Azerbaijan as heavy underdogs, but they will be filled with confidence after a strong effort in their domestic league. Dundalk currently sit at the top of Ireland’s Premier Division and after 25 games sit four points clear of their nearest rivals. The travelling side arrive at Qarabag’s ground having gone 14 games without a defeat, with 11 of those encounters ending in victories. Unlike their opponents, Dundalk have featured in a fixture since their last Champions League game, which saw them face St Patrick’s Athletic and resulted in a 1-0 success.
It took Mahir Emreli just four minutes to find the back of the net last time out and we are expecting the forward to keep his spot up front on Wednesday. Both Dani Quintana and Ozobic were left out of the squad during the first leg, but we could see them return to the starting eleven with the two scoring important goals against Partizani.
Dundalk will need to front their strongest eleven on Wednesday to stand a chance of causing an upset in Azerbaijan and Vinny Perth will be glad that he has no injuries or suspensions to be concerned with. Dundalk are also likely to stick with a 4-3-3 formation, with Patrick Hoban leading the line up front. The forward scored his side’s only goal in their last meeting. John Mountney started on the bench during the first leg, but we could see a start from the midfielder after his impressive outing against St Patrick’s Athletic.
Qarabag arrive at their home ground expecting a win and they look in good shape to do so. All bookies will have them as the strong favourites, with them priced around 1.60 to win. Dundalk did well to leave Ireland with a 1-1 draw, but we are expecting the hosts to run away with it during the second leg. Qarabag tend to show their home fans their best quality in front of goal and we are expecting to see multiple goals once again here.