Getting to know Crvena zvezda
The Champions League is back at last, and FC Bayern begin their campaign on Wednesday evening at home to Serbian champions Crvena zvezda (better known as Red Star Belgrade). The two clubs have met five times previously and with two wins apiece and one draw, the record couldn't be more equal. Their last encounter took place in 2007 on the first matchday of the UEFA Cup, the predecessor to today's Europa League competition. Teams only played each other once in the group stage of the UEFA Cup, and Bayern won that game 3-2 in Belgrade thanks to a brace from World Cup winner and current FCB U17 coach Miroslav Klose. *fcbayern.com*examines the Reds' next opponents.
Record league champions, record cup winners and European cup winners -- since being founded in 1945, Red Star Belgrade have established themselves as Serbia's most successful club both domestically and on the European stage. Fudbalski klub Crvena zvezda, as the club are officially known in their local language, have been a permanent fixture in the top flight since 1946 and with 30 league titles and 24 cup successes to their name, they are the undisputed no.1 ahead of fierce rivals Partizan Belgrade (27 league titles, 16 cups). Their greatest success to date came in 1991 when they won the European Cup, beating FC Bayern on the way in the semi-finals. After a 2-1 win in the first leg in Munich, the Eastern Europeans progressed to the final with a 2-2 draw at home.
Political history means that Red Star played in the first division in Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1991 and then in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until the 2006/07 season and the dissolution of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro. Since 2007, Red Star have been playing in the Super Liga, Serbia's top flight.
Champions League record
Having been regulars in the former European Cup, Red Star qualified for the Champions League group stage for the first time last season. Despite an impressive 2-0 victory at home to eventual winners Liverpool and a 0-0 draw with Napoli, they finished bottom. In the all-time table of Europe's premier club competition, Crvena zvezda rank 126th with four points from six games. However, if you include the European Cup, you'll find them in 26th position.
Red Star play their home games at the Rajko Mitić Stadium, named after the club legend who scored 262 goals in 572 appearances for the club and is still regarded as one of the greatest players and coaches in Yugoslavian and Serbian football. With 60,000 seats, it's the largest stadium in Serbia. It was completed in 1964 and had a capacity of over 100,000 until the early nineties, which earned it the nickname of Marakana in honour of the 2014 World Cup final venue in Rio de Janeiro.
Serbian Vladan Milojević has been in charge of the side since July 2017. The 49-year-old, who was previously coach of Greek club Panionios, favours a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Red Star boast a total of 10 senior internationals in their squad, but the most experienced and well-known of them is without doubt captain Marko Marin. The 30-year-old, who was capped 16 times by Germany, has worn the red star on his chest since summer 2018 and registered eight goals and 17 assists in 40 games. "It'll be nice to play in a German stadium again, especially against Bayern. I'm looking forward to seeing my former Germany teammates Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng and Thomas Müller," said the former Bremen and Gladbach man ahead of his return to his home country.
Red Star claimed their second successive Super Liga title last season, finishing 12 and 18 points ahead of second- and third-placed FK Radnički Niš and FK Partizan Belgrade. Currently Crvena are sitting in third place with six wins from the first six games, one point off top spot but with two games in hand. They beat FK Indjija 2-1 at the weekend with both goals scored by top scorer Milan Pavkov. The Serbians qualified for the Champions League for the second year in a row by beating Sūduva Marijampolė of Lithuania in the first round, Finnish outfit HJK Helsinki in the second round, Danish champions FC Copenhagen in the third round and Swiss champions BSC Young Boys in the play-offs.