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Preview: FK Crvena Zvezda – FC Koln

The battle for second place behind already qualified Arsenal in Europa League (EL) Group F is an interesting one. Crvena Zvevda are on the same points as Cologne but sit one place above them due to their 1-0 win in Cologne on matchday two. A win for either side would take them automatically through, while a draw could let in fourth-placed BATE who visit Arsenal in a must-win game for the Belarusians.

 

Flashscore presents the key facts before the match:

Cologne’s last two games in the EL – victories over Arsenal and BATE – have at least provided some respite to an awful campaign in the Bundesliga where they have lost 11 and drawn three of their 14 games and not surprisingly find themselves propping up the table. Despite a decent 2-2 draw at Schalke at the weekend, Cologne coach Peter Stoger was given his official marching orders on Sunday and was replaced by U-19 coach Stefan Ruthenbeck as interim boss.

This will be Ruthenback’s first game in charge and during the pre-match presser he had this to say about the task ahead: “We want to be the active team. We know we can’t win here being passive,” before adding: “Our players are motivated. They know what awaits them.”

Getting anything at the Rajko Mitic Stadium will not be an easy task, however. Crvena Zvevda, or Red Star Belgrade as they are more commonly known in the West, are unbeaten in ten home matches in the Serbian league and have a good record against German sides at their stadium – winning nine, drawing four and losing just two of the 13 games played. On top of this, Crvena Zvevda have a 12th man in their fanatical home support and have not conceded more than one goal in any of their last seven home European games.

Furthermore, a win for Cologne would be the first time any side has lost their first three EL games and still progressed through to the knockout stages – some achievement for the club in its current plight in its first European campaign in 20 years.

 

Missing players

FK Crvena Zvezda: N. Radonjic (injury), Ricardinho (doubtful)

FC Koln: L. Bittencourt (groin injury), J. Cordoba (thigh injury), J. Hector (ankle injury), D. Heintz (thigh injury), M. Hoger (muscle injury), M. Risse (knee injury), S. Zoller (thigh injury), Y.A. Bisseck (doubtful), D. Maroh (doubtful), J. Mere (doubtful), J. Queiros (doubtful).