Vardar v Zenit background
Macedonian football history will be made in UEFA Europa League Group L as the nation hosts its first UEFA club competition group stage game, Vardar welcoming Zenit.
• The sides are meeting for the first time, and it is Zenit’s first competitive encounter with a team from FYR Macedonia.
• In their only past tie against a Russian club, Vardar unexpectedly eliminated CSKA Moskva in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, holding on for a 1-1 home draw after a 2-1 success in Moscow.
• That win remains the only Macedonian victory in eight UEFA club competition meetings with Russian sides: W1 D4 L3.
• Vardar have won all three of their European home matches this season – against Malmö and København in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, and then against Fenerbahçe in the play-offs for this competition – conceding just once in the process.
• Zenit have lost three of their last four UEFA away fixtures, the exception a 2-0 win at Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv in this season’s UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.
• Domestic champions last season, Vardar are the first club from FYR Macedonia to make it to the group stage of a major UEFA competition, overcoming Fenerbahçe home and away in the play-offs.
• UEFA Cup winners in 2008, Zenit finished third in Russia last term; they have competed in either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League group stage in every season since 2010/11, playing European football in the spring on each occasion.
Links and trivia
• The journey from St Petersburg to Skopje is around 2,100km.
• Zenit have played 158 UEFA games to date; Vardar – named in honour of the river that runs through Skopje – just 64.
• Cedomir Janevski returned to coach Vardar in August 2017, having previously served the Skopje side as a defender from 1982–89. He spent many of the intervening years in Belgium, where he played for and coached Club Brugge, among other teams.
• Roberto Mancini took charge of Zenit in June 2017. A member of the Lazio side that lifted the 1998/99 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, he coached Internazionale and Manchester City to league titles, and more recently claimed a Turkish Cup at Galatasaray.