The Yellow & Blue continue their Europa League qualification quest as they take on Kazakhstan side Kairat Almaty on Thursday, 17:45 at the Almaty Central Stadium in the first leg of the second round of the competition. There have been Israeli clubs who have traveled to Kazakhstan in the past but never to play Kairat, so for Maccabi and Israeli football fans, the club is heading into somewhat of the unknown. To help us get a better picture of the team, Manuel Veth of and spoke to the Official Website all about the team who wears Yellow & Black:

“Kairat was a strong team during the time of the Soviet Union, but since independence has travelled relatively little abroad. So many of the fans will have limited knowledge about the Israeli league and vice-versa.”

Playing in the Soviet League back in the day is tough for any club, however, Kairat took part in the top league for 24 years, a record for a Central Asian team. They also captured the second division crown in 1976 and 1983 and won the USSR’s first European Cup in 1971 taking the now defunct European Railworks Cup with a victory over Rapid Bucharest.

Kairat currently has a number of players who are well known to the footballing public including Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, the Ukrainian international who starred in the midfield for Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayern Munich along with Andrey Arshavin who scored 23 goals for Arsenal. But we should also keep an eye on a couple of other players expanded Veth: “Another very good player is the Chilean Gerson Acevedo, who is a classic playmaker and Bauyrzhan Islamkhan who is supposedly the country’s biggest talent, but has failed to truly try himself at a foreign club. I think it is someone to look out for for sure though.”

One thing that Kairat and Maccabi have in common is the fact that both clubs have a Georgian coach: “Kakhaber Tskhadadze Kairat’s coach had had a mixed record at his previous clubs, and the Georgian national team. He was given a big budget by the club, and is expected to play attractive football. In general, Georgian coaches tend towards trying to encourage technical football, but during his time as the national team coach of Georgia, Tskhadadze tried to introduce more compact football, which sadly back fired.”

The Kazakhstan side has been improving year by year in European competition advancing all the way to the Europa League Playoff Round last season, knocking off Red Star Belgrade and Aberdeen but ultimately falling to Bordeaux on away goals on a 2:2 aggregate result. With that in mind, Kairat has some lofty goals ahead both in the international and domestic arenas where they have won the Cup two straight years and finished in second place last campaign: “The club wants to reach at least the group stage of the Europa League, and domestically win the title.”