Maccabi Tel Aviv faces a difficult task in front of them as they open the second qualifying round of the Europa League against Kazakhstan side Kairat Almaty. The Yellow & Blue will play in Central Stadium with the goal of returning to Israel with a positive result. Shota Arveladze has already properly prepared his players and we want to also make sure that you’re all up to date before the match on Thursday at 17:45 Israel time. Here are a number of key points that you should know prior to the opening whistle.

Position IslamhanPoint #1: Under the magnifying glass: Bauyrzhan Islamkhan
When the identity of the Yellow & Blue’s second round foe was announced, many were drawn to the glittering names of Andrey Arshavin who starred with Arsenal and Zenit as well as Anatoliy Tymoshchuk who played for many seasons at Bayern Munich with whom he won the Champions League. Tymoshchuk is also the Ukraine’s all time leader in appearances and also played with Arshavin at Zenit St. Petersburg and won the 2007/08 UEFA Cup. There is also an Israeli connection as Cesar Arzo who played for Beitar Jerusalem in 2014/15 recently signed with the club while another important player to watch is Taraz, Kazakhstan product, midfielder Bauyrzhan Islamkhan.
Goal by Islamkhan

The youngster has scored 11 goals in all competitions for Kairat after coming over from Russian outfit, Kuban Krasnodar following a loan spell at Astana. Since coming to Almaty after a difficult loan period, Islamkhan has been named captain and is considered to be a key player for the side.

Some of the 23-year old’s qualities include his ball dribbling skills, the way he leads the counter attack and his deep passes. This campaign, Islamkhan has an average of 4 key passes per match which may explain why the midfielder has collected 9 assists since the beginning of the year. By looking at the chart, one can see that most of Islamkhan’s actions are in the middle of the pitch (58% of his actions) while he also plays down the left wing as well (34% of his actions).

The one area where the midfielder is lacking is in his height. At only 1.74 meters Islamkhan has won only 30% of his aerial battles that he’s taken part of.

Point #2: Placement on the pitchPastedGraphic-2
Since the arrival of Head Coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze, Kairat plays a much more offensive style with all of the players on the pitch. The Georgian’s formation is similar to that of Maccabi. As you can see in the chart there are usually two defensive midfielders with Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Mikhail Bakayev taking up those positions, filling up the center of the pitch with Islamkhan playing just behind the striker.Position kairat

Taking a look at Kairat’s last league victory against Tobol, Andrey Arshavin (28) and Brazilian Isael (10) also play around the center of the opponent’s side of the pitch, allowing the defensive backs to attack from the wings.

As you can see on the diagram which indicates the average position of the players, the defensive backs go on the attack and also back up the midfielders when Kairat is on the offensive. Another interesting piece of information that can be learned from the last match is that Kairat’s key passes led to a goal as well as a number of scoring opportunities. The passes come from roughly 25-30 meters away from the opponent’s goal allowing for the club’s leading scorer, Ivory Coast striker Gerard Gohou plenty of chances to score. In the same contest, Kairat’s players were accurate on 12/18 key passes.

Point #3: There’s no place like home
There is still plenty of time until the domestic season begins in Israel, but in Kazakhstan the local league is in full swing. 20 rounds have already been played in the Kazakhstan First Division and Georgian Head Coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze’s side finds itself in second place, 10 points behind table leaders Astana.

Kairat, known as “The People’s Team” had a rough start to their campaign when three straight losses led to Coach Aleksandr Borodyuk’s dismissal and opened the door for the Georgian’s appointment. With Tskhadadze’s arrival, the Kazakhstan side has won 12 matches, drew three and lost only twice since April.

The most impressive stat for the Yellow & Blue’s opponent is that Kairat has yet to lose at home this season. In fact, you have to go all the way back to last campaign in October 2015 to find that they were defeated at the Central Stadium by Astana. In order to really get a feel as to how dominant Kairat is at home, just take a look at their European record. Their last home loss was way back in 2002, but you also have to take into account that “The People’s Team” hadn’t played in Europe for 12 years. Since 2014/15 Kairat has gone seven matches in a row without a loss on their home pitch in Europa League qualifying action.

The little details:

  • Last season, Kairat Almaty made it all the way from the first round of Europa League qualifying to the Playoffs where they fell to Bordeaux despite a 1:0 home victory.
  • Kairat’s number 10, Isael da Silva Barbosa, or just simply Isael, is one of the side’s most dangerous players. Watch out fro his crosses from the wings to the penalty area.
  • Cesar Arzo has played three times in the past against Beitar Jerusalem while he was with Beitar Jerusalem in 2014/15 and still hasn’t lost to the Yellow & Blue (2 draws and 1 victory with Beitar).