Small Club of the Week – Red Star Belgrade (2nd Award)

Note: This weekly series will look for teams outside of the top flights of European football to find true underdog stories of clubs well below the radar. Clubs will be featured based on performance in the various tournaments that happen concurrently with the league seasons, or even strong runs in some of the leagues that dot the European football landscape. Chances are, these clubs will be years away from finding a home at the top flights of football – if they are ever able to get there – but it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve attention from time to time. If you happen upon a team that you think might qualify, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter @GuruEbby or @SportMuseNet!

Additionally, since there hasn’t been any matches played in the other tournaments I usually pull from for this series – though the FA Cup will play its first round this weekend – I’ve decided to revisit one of our previously featured teams in the series this week, due to their unexpected win in Champions League yesterday.

Red Star Belgrade (FK Crvena zvezda)

Nickname: The Red-Whites
Founded: 4 March 1945
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Team Colors: Red & White
Ground: Rajko Mitić Stadium
Capacity: 55,538
Current League: Serbian SuperLiga (Tier 1 of Serbian Association)
Twitter: @crvenazvezda_en

Reason For Notice

Red Star started with a draw in the Champions League group stage, a result I covered in the recap of Matchday 1 in the tournament. That scoreless draw was followed up with two (expected) losses to Paris Saint-Germain (6-1) and Liverpool (4-0) that left them in last place in Group C after three matches. Nevertheless, they managed to overcome that same Liverpool team on Matchday 4, winning 2-0 at home behind two first half goals from Milan Pavkov. They are still in fourth place in the group, but their path to perhaps finishing third and moving on to Europa League has increased, with FiveThirtyEight giving them a 14% chance of finishing third in the group. They have to win at least one of two matches that remain, especially because they have a goal differential of -7, so they would most likely lose a tiebreaker should they end up tied with another club.

Club History

Note: This is the same history that I wrote when I profiled them the first time.

Red Star Belgrade was started as a Youth Physical Culture Society during World War II in what was then Yugoslavia. They won their first Yugoslavian championship in 1951, the first of 19 titles they would win while the country was still united. They also won five league titles in the First League of Serbia and Montenegro, and have won four titles in the 12 years of the Serbian SuperLiga, a total of 28 titles in 73 years, a pretty impressive rate (38.4%).

They have also found some success in European competition, winning what is now known as Champions League during the 1990-1991 season, defeating French club Marseille in a penalty shootout. They remain the last club from Eastern Europe to win the Champions League, and were only the second club to ever do so, after Romanian club Steaua București won in 1986. They also have two other semifinal appearances – in 1971 and 1957 – in the European Cup (now called Champions League), as well as finishing as runners-up in the 1979 UEFA Cup (the tournament now known as Europa League).

In this year’s Champions League qualifying, they defeated Spartaks Jūrmala (Latvia), Sūduva Marijampolė (Lithuania), Spartak Trnava (Slovakia), and Red Bull Salzburg (Austria). Though only Red Bull Salzburg (28th) had a higher ranking, getting through four rounds – with home-and-away legs each round – is quite an accomplishment in this era of professional football.

Upcoming Matches

They have two matches remaining in the Champions League group stage: at Napoli on 28 November and home versus PSG on 11 December. As previously mentioned, they’ll need to win won of these matches to increase their chances of advancing, whether it’s further in the Champions League or a shot at Europa. They’ll also need some help from the other clubs failing that, so adding another 3 points over those next two games would reduce the margin of error a bit.

They remain in first place in the Serbian SuperLiga, without a defeat through 15 matches (14-1-0) and nine points ahead of second place Radnički Niš. This weekend, they play an away match against last place Dinamo Vranje, which leads me to believe that they will remain undefeated on the season.

Update on Last Week’s Club

Last week, I profiled League One club Burton Albion after they defeated Nottingham Forest in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. With another match against a Championship club in the quarterfinals – they avoided one of the six Premier League clubs that will remain – they could advance further, though I would think that meeting Middlesbrough at home might make that difficult. After all, their victory of Nottingham Forest was at home. The Carabao Cup match against Middlesbrough will be played on 18 December.

In League One play, the Brewers managed to win the match against Walsall that I mentioned last week moving them up to 14th in the league table. They do get the week off from league play this week, and will instead face off against fellow League One club Scunthorpe United in the first round proper of the FA Cup. Scunthorpe is currently in 19th place in League One, and the two clubs played to a scoreless draw when they met during league play, so this match really could go either way.

Until next time…

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