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Zeko lopove...
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)

It's that summer time good, good feeling... after another successful season by both of our main clubs, in football and basketball. In football we won the Serbian domestic title and regained our Champions status for the first time since 2005/06 and 2006/07. This is no small feat by a manager, Vladan Milojevic, who has stolen all of our hearts and minds. We won our 30th league title and added a third star to our crest, something that many of us have never witnessed. Milojevic's current record at Crvena Zvezda in two full seasons in all competitions reads... 113 matches played, 83 won, 20 drawn, and 10 lost. Seven of the 10 losses have come in Europe (Krasnodar away, Arsenal home, CSKA Moscow away, PSG home/away, Napoli away, Liverpool away) with a winning percentage of approximately 75%, which is just unreal for a coach who came in and needed to revitalize the club and the playing staff, especially given the circumstances he was working under, at least initially. In the league, we have only tasted defeat twice under Milojevic in a span of 74 games (Napredak away last season and Cukaricki away this season).

This upcoming season, Vladan and his men will be targeting a third straight domestic league title, something only the legendary Milan Miljanic has achieved in the history of the club. That fact alone illustrates the effect Milojevic has had on the club as a whole. He will also be targeting a third straight European competition group stage appearance, something that was truly not expected of anyone before coming here. In his quest for glory, the following 30 players have been called up to Austria for pre-season. Some of them are still with their national teams for competitions this summer and will join in the next 1-2 weeks.

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan (Canada - Gold Cup), Zoran Popović, Miloš Gordić, Aleksandar Stanković.

Right Fullback: Filip Stojković, Milan Gajić (Serbia - U21 Euro).

Central Defender: Vujadin Savić, Nemanja Milunović, Radovan Pankov, Srdjan Babić (Serbia - U21 Euro).

Left Fullback: Milan Rodić, Marko Gobeljić, Marko Konatar.

Central Midfielders: Branko Jovičić, Dušan Jovančić, Miloš Vulić, Goran Čaušić.

Right Winger: El Fardu Ben, Aleksa Vukanović, Erik Jirka, Jug Stanojev.

Creative Playmaker: Marko Marin, Lorenzo Ebecilio.

Left Winger: Mirko Ivanić, Veljko Simić, Milan Jevtović, Željko Gavrić.

Forwards: Ričmond Boaći, Milan Pavkov, Nikola Krstović.

Players that have left the club or look set to leave the club this summer are:

GK Nemanja Supić (retired), CM Nenad Milijaš (retired), AMC Dejan Meleg (set for sale after poor loan), WR Jonathan Cafu (loan ended), DC Rashid Sumaila (loan ended), DL Stefan Hajdin (set for sale after poor season), ST Dejan Vidić (set for loan after past season), DC Ze Marcos (released), ST Dejan Joveljic (sold to Einchart Frankfurt for 4 million euros), DL Aleksa Terzic (sold to AC Fiorentina for 1.5 million euros).

Currently, the ambitions are very high and we've really regained the majority of our side from the past two title winning seasons. The only new addition thus far in the summer transfer window has been Radovan Pankov, the central defender coming from a very successful one year spell at Radnicki Nis. He is a product of the Vojvodina youth academy and featured for Russian Premier League side FC Ural before coming back to Lalatovic's side this past season. He formed a very good partnership with Bondarenko at Radnicki, and will look to push out one of Savic, Milunovic or Babic for a starting spot in central defense.

Players that have also been added to the Austrian pre-season squad after impressing during the first phase of pre-season in Zlatibor are players who featured heavily for Graficar Belgrade this past season, our affiliate that clinched promotion to the Prva Liga Srbije (Serbian 2nd tier right below the Jelen Super Liga). These players are goalkeeper Aleksandar Stankovic, left full back Marko Konatar, left winger Zeljko Gavric and right winger Jug Stanojev. It was also expected that our best player at Graficar last season, Veljko Nikolic, our young and creative diminutive central #10 would join the squad, but he received an injury recently and will be out for the next 2 months after having surgery to his hip. He will miss pre-season with the first team, which is a huge shame because he was widely expected to be one of the few youth players to make the first team. Lastly, Nikola Krstovic, the top scorer of the Montenegrin Premier League last season for FK Zeta, joins our forward line as the 20 year old looks to impress after Boaci and Pavkov remain as our sole remaining forwards after Dejan Joveljic's 4 million Euro sale to Einchart Frankfurt. It has been heavily rumored that we are on the verge of adding the striker, Tomane, from Portuguese side C.D. Tondela as we look to bolster our options in attack.

As of right now, the younger players that have impressed in pre-season thus far are Zeljko Gavric and Nikola Krstovic. There's also a fierce battle for the third goalkeeper spot between Milos Gordic and Aleksandar Stankovic, both of which are very young. Stankovic has been the captain and goalkeeper for Graficar Belgrade the past two seasons and has grown accustomed to first team football, and it remains to be seen if Graficar will retain him for this upcoming season in the Serbian second tier or if he will be named the third goalkeeper and if Gordic, the #1 for the FKCZ U19's who played in the UEFA Youth Champions League this season will take over the starting spot there as our youth squadron looks to progress both players.

Currently, the players are in the midst of finding their feet on their 3rd day in Austria (see clip below).

4T_UmVfK3ko

While in Austria, we will face the following sides - FC Windischgarsten (June 19th), TBD (June 22nd), Cypriot Premier League side Apollon Limassol (June 25th), Russian champions Zenit St. Peterbsurg (June 29th) and Austrian second tier side FC Blau-Weiß Linz (July 1st). Our first round of Champions League qualifying commences on July 9th or July 10th against our old customer from last season, FK Suduva Mariampolje, the Lithuanian Champions. For those that don't remember, we knocked out FK Suduva last season in the second qualifying round for the UEFA Champions League having beaten them 3-0 at home and 2-0 away. However, the team will need to be highly concentrated as last year at this stage FK Suduva knocked out a much more fancied APOEL Nicosia, the Cypriot champions 3-2 on aggregate. The good news is that our first qualifier is in Mariampolje while the return leg will come a week later on July 16th or July 17th at the Marakana. The draw for the second qualifying round will also be coming out on June 19th, Wednesday. It was great that we got FK Suduva in the first round of qualifying as we could have gotten CFR Cluj, the Romanian champions or Ferencvárosi TC, the Hungarian champions, both of which would been a bit harder to overcome, especially so early in July and in the first qualifying round.


As the players gear up for another season, currently the best 11 based on last season seems to be - Borjan, Stojkovic, Savic, Milunovic, Rodic, Jovicic, Jovanvic, Ben, Marin, Ivanic, and Boakye. However, we saw towards the end of last season that certain players definitely reached and went past their peak as a bit of a dip in form was the cause for our poorer spring than normal. It will be interesting to see where Filip Stojkovic, Vujadin Savic, Nemanja Milunovic, Mirko Ivanic, Richmond Boakye, Branko Jovicic, and Dusan Jovancic all end up as all of these spots are up for grabs given the past 3-4 months of play. As it stands, the only players to have assured themselves of a place in the starting 11 as of today are Milan Borjan in goal, Marko Marin as a creative midfielder, and El Fardu Ben as a right winger. It has also been rumored that Milan Jevtovic has been seen as reborn left winger after impressing towards the end of last season and it'll be interesting to see if he can potentially make that spot his own as one of the greatest criticisms of our system last spring was that the inclusion of Ivanic, Marin and Ben made the team too narrow and there was no natural winger providing width. This often times led to a lack of movement and a lack of ideas in the final third as we looked to Marin to spring a creative pass to start the creation of a play.

Outside of the the playing squad, things are progressing nicely in regards to the stadium as the pitch is being relayed as we speak per UEFA's requirements. In addition, the Western Zapad terrace is getting a makeover per discussions with UEFA over the past season. Lastly, progress continues to be made on the training infrastructure and recently stadium reconstruction plans were viewed as the club management narrowed down the construction ideas down to three choices. Typically I'd say this is another project that will really lead to nowhere, but over the past 2 seasons we have seen such improvements in our infrastructure, improvements that have not been made for 20+ years that I'm actually a believer in that the stadium will get reconstructed if we qualify for Europe again this season. The good news on the European front is that even if we lose in one of the Champions League qualifying rounds, we will be seeded for the remainder of the Europa League qualifying rounds, so there is no chance of us receiving an opponent from one of the top five leagues in the last couple of qualifying rounds for the Europa League.

Most opponents for the Europa League 4th qualifying round will be teams of a similar stature, and as such, we have a very realistic chance of qualifying for at least the Europa League this season, which I would still see as a huge accomplishment. As in the past years, if we lose in any round of Champions League qualifying (1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th) we will enter the Europa League in the subsequent round. Thus, once again the key will be to get past the first three rounds of Champions League qualifying, as even if we lose in the 4th round of Champions League qualifying we would automatically enter the Europa league in the group stage (the subsequent round) thus guaranteeing us an additional cash increase and at least six more fixtures in Europe. This year, we will be seeded for the first two rounds of Champions League qualifying, but we will be unseeded in the third round and that is where things will get tricky because some of the teams we can face in the third round are AFC Ajax, Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb, FC Copenhagen, BATE Borisov or FC Astana. This all depends on the seeded sides making it through the first two rounds.

Overall, we have reason to be optimistic, but we will need to be cautious as exerting the maximum is what I believe is required to achieve a similar level of success as last season, and that for me is making the group stage of at least the Europa League. It will be interesting to follow the summer transfer mercato as the team prepares over the next three weeks in Austria. Let's sit back, beer in hand, and enjoy the summer pre-season with a view to the upcoming games.

 

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Zeko lopove...
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Discussion Starter #2
Our first summer signing, Radovan Pankov from FK Radnicki Nis.

 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
We had our first game yesterday in Austria, and beat the local side 7-0. Highlights are below. We started in the following formation:

Popović
(Stankovic, Gordic)

Jirka---------Stojković-----Milunović-----Rodić
(Gobeljic)-----(Savic)-------------------(Konatar)

Čaušić--Jovančić
(Vulic)--(Gavric)

Jevtovic------Ivanic-----Marin
(Vukanovic)--(Ben)------(Simic)

Boakye
(Krstovic)

Players in parenthesis came in the second half, mostly playing the second 45. The scorers were Ivanić u 9', Boaći u 31', Boaći u 37', Vukanović u 55', Simić u 68', Krstović u 71', Simić u 74'.

Current transfer rumors have Lorenzo Ebecilio, Vujadin Savic, Filip Stojkovic, Milan Rodic and Milan Pavkov leaving the club. Players being linked with us are the young Radnik goalkeeper Nikola Vasiljevic who impressed each time they played us this season, the Egyptian left back Karim Hafez, central midfielder Jose Alberto Canas who would come on a free transfer from PAOK and the Portuguese center forward Tomane from CD Tondela.

PJbKZyAo4Dc
 

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Zeko lopove...
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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
We've played out the rest of our preparation games in Austria. Our results were -

6/22/19 - FK Crvena Zvezda 1:1 CFR Cluj (Champions of Romania)
6/25/19 - FK Crvena Zvezda 1:1 FC Apollon Limassol (Runner-up to APOEL in Cyprus)
6/29/19 - FK Crvena Zvezda 0:1 FC Zenit St. Petersburg (Champions of Russia)
7/01/19 - FK Crvena Zvezda 3:1 FC Blau-Weiß Linz (2nd tier Austrian side)

In the games against Cluj and Zenit, we fielded pretty much our best 11 at the moment while against Apollon and especially against Blau-Weiß Linz we fielded reserve sides that were formed largely from our second 11. Highlights are below from each game.

6/22/19 vs. CFR Cluj

sGOlEoXapNA

6/25/19 vs. Apollon Limassol

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6/29/19 vs. Zenit St. Petersburg

0PgH5omwBpQ

7/1/19 vs. FC Blau-Weiß Linz

c9USFPKf-Ms

In terms of impressions, we played really well against Zenit St. Peterbsurg who barring some missing internationals that are at their continental competitions, fielded their strongest starting 11 at the moment. We did the same and their goalkeeper was excellent all game to keep us out of the net as can be seen in the highlights. We're showing some good pressing at times, and we just need to be a bit more clinical.

In outgoing player transfer news, our main sporting director Zvezdan Terzic has said that Milan Pavkov, Lorenzo Ebecilio, Goran Causic, Filip Stojkovic and Vujadin Savic have all been told that if there's an offer that satisfies their appetite, that they can leave. Pavkov was on the verge of signing with a Chinese Super League side but it's been noted that somewhere the transfer stopped after the player went to China to agree personal terms. I think it's a matter of time before Pavkov leaves given the surrounding stories that have come out. In addition Ebecilio also seems likely to leave and it's been noted there are several Chinese and Arab clubs interested in his services. Also, it was reported that Branko Jovicic is wanted by FC Nimes of the French Ligue Un in the past week and that we rejected a 3 million offer for El Fardou Ben Nabhouanne who has consistently said he wishes to stay at least through the European qualifiers to ensure that if he leaves Zvezda are in the group stage of the Champions League or the Europa League. Lastly, it's been rumored that we will be loaning out Milos Vulic and Erik Jirka to Radnicki Nis where they'll be joining Dejan Meleg on a season long loan.

In incoming player transfer news, we've finally signed some players that we've been rumored to be on the verge of signing for the last month. The first of those players is Jose Alberto Canas, a 32 year old central midfielder who comes on a free after winning the League and Cup double with PAOK last season. His contract expired on June 30 with PAOK and he has signed a 2 year contract with us. Canas grew up in the Real Betis academy, made almost a 100 appearances for the Seville based outfit and has since played a full season for Swansea City in the Premier League and a couple of seasons for Espanyol in La Liga. He will be a much needed upgrade in central midfield after the second half of last season proved that we hadn't adequately found a replacement for Nenad Krsticic who went to AEK.

In addition to Canas, we've also completed the signing of Portuguese striker Tomane from CD Tondela, the Portuguese Primeira Liga side. Tomane comes in for approximately 750,000 Euros on a 3 year contract. Tomane is 26 years old and plays as an attacking forward. Last season he scored 12 league goals for Tondela and was the main attacking outlet for the club. He was 9th on the Top Scorer listing for the Portuguese league ahead of several better players than him in Moussa Marega of Porto and Jonas of Benfica, who each had 11 goals. He is really looking to launch his career to the next level, and I'm relatively impressed that we've been able to capture him given his excellent season.

We also captured Radnik Surdulica goalkeeper Nikola Vasiljevic who was consistently impressive against us in the league this past season. He was close to re-joining Radnik back on loan, but it has been determined that he will fight for his spot at the club given how good of an impression he has made. This surely means that Aleksandar Stankovic will be re-loaned out to Graficar and he will be their first choice goalkeeper this season in the Serbian second tier.

Nikola Vaslijevic at his signing below.



Jose Alberto Canas in his first full training session below.

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Tomané signed today and will join the squad relatively shortly.



Overall, the club is in a pretty good state, and will be looking to return to Belgrade in the next couple of days to start getting ready for our first qualifying match first leg against FK Suduva, which is on Tuesday, July 9th in Lithuania. The second leg of that tie is the following Tuesday, on July 16th at the Marakana in Belgrade.

Current depth chart after the last two weeks:

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, Zoran Popović, Nikola Vasiljević, Aleksandar Stanković.

Right Fullback: Filip Stojković, Milan Gajić.

Central Defender: Vujadin Savić, Nemanja Milunović, Radovan Pankov, Srdjan Babić.

Left Fullback: Milan Rodić, Marko Gobeljić, Marko Konatar.

Central Midfielders: Jose Alberto Canas, Branko Jovičić, Dušan Jovančić, Goran Čaušić, Miloš Vulić.

Right Winger: El Fardu Ben, Milan Jevtović, Erik Jirka, Jug Stanojev.

Creative Playmaker: Mirko Ivanić, Lorenzo Ebecilio.

Left Winger: Marko Marin, Veljko Simić, Aleksa Vukanović, Željko Gavrić.

Forwards: Tomané, Ričmond Boakye, Milan Pavkov, Nikola Krstović.

In terms of formation, since the pre-season began Ivanic and Marin have switched positions, and Marin has been put on his more natural left flank whereas Ivanic has taken up his central attacking midfield spot where Marin played the second half of last season. That's the main formation change thus far.

Also, Stojkovic has seen time at center back again this pre-season, but it remains unlikely to me that he will feature there once the real games begin. It will be interesting lastly to see if Borjan re-claims the #1 spot once he comes back soon from the Gold Cup where Canada was eliminated in the quarterfinal or if Zoran Popovic will be given a shot in the upcoming games against Suduva given his good form against Zenit.
 

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Zeko lopove...
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Discussion Starter #6
In other news, the Zvezda club members have voted on and decided the new look of the club crest that now features a third star given our 30th title this past season. Looks awesome.

 

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Discussion Starter #7
Today we completed our fifth signing of the transfer window, Jander Santana (see link here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jander_Ribeiro_Santana), a 30 year-old Brazilian left back who featured for Pafos in the Cypriot Super League last season. Before that he has played for Apollon Limassol and several sides in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. He seems like a genuine fellow who said all the right things at his press conference introduction. This leaves us looking likely to sell one of our fullbacks in Milan Rodic, Marko Gobeljic, or Filip Stojkovic as it's been noted that this is a player Milojevic wanted. Vladan knows him from his time spent in Cyprus.



Updated depth chart -

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, Zoran Popović, Nikola Vasiljević, Aleksandar Stanković.

Right Fullback: Filip Stojković, Marko Gobeljić, Milan Gajić.

Central Defender: Vujadin Savić, Nemanja Milunović, Radovan Pankov, Srdjan Babić.

Left Fullback: Milan Rodić, Jander Santana, Marko Konatar.

Central Midfielders: Jose Alberto Canas, Branko Jovičić, Dušan Jovančić, Goran Čaušić, Miloš Vulić.

Right Winger: El Fardu Ben, Milan Jevtović, Erik Jirka, Jug Stanojev.

Creative Playmaker: Mirko Ivanić, Lorenzo Ebecilio.

Left Winger: Marko Marin, Veljko Simić, Aleksa Vukanović, Željko Gavrić.

Forwards: Tomané, Ričmond Boakye, Milan Pavkov, Nikola Krstović.

Currently, that is 33 players. Out of the names listed I believe the following will be loaned out to Graficar for their season in the Serbian Prva Liga Srbije - Aleksandar Stankovic, Marko Konatar, Jug Stanojev, Zeljko Gavric, Nikola Krstovic.

That gets us down to 28. From there, I believe we will probably sell Lorenzo Ebecilio and Milan Rodic given Jander's arrival, and look likely to loan out Erik Jirka and Milos Vulic.

After that we should be left with a squad looking like this -

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, Zoran Popović, Nikola Vasiljević.

Right Fullback: Filip Stojković, Milan Gajić.

Central Defender: Vujadin Savić, Nemanja Milunović, Radovan Pankov, Srdjan Babić.

Left Fullback: Jander Santana, Marko Gobeljić.

Central Midfielders: Jose Alberto Canas, Branko Jovičić, Dušan Jovančić, Goran Čaušić.

Right Winger: El Fardu Ben, Milan Jevtović.

Creative Playmaker: Mirko Ivanić, Veljko Simić.

Left Winger: Marko Marin, Aleksa Vukanović.

Forwards: Tomané, Ričmond Boakye, Milan Pavkov.

This looks like a very experienced side that can really drive us forward, and it's a total of 24 players which I think is really what Milojevic want to see. It'll be interesting to see who leaves us in the next month as I believe the majority of departures will happen from next week through the end of August and it'll be interesting to see if that forces another move in the transfer market.
 

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Zeko lopove...
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Discussion Starter #8
Our sporting director Mitar Mrkela has come today to the press and noted: "Jirka, Ebecilio and Causic are leaving and Vulic is staying" Jirka and Meleg have moved on loan to Radnicki Nis where Simo Krunic has become the new coach. The big news are that Goran Causic has been finally identified as a weak spot in central midfield and looks set to depart. Causic has come under severe criticism by the fans ever since his first appearance against SSC Napoli and he never really got going in a Red Star Belgrade jersey. Other rumors include that Nimes have sent an official 2 million Euro offer for Branko Jovicic and that Nimes is also interested in Milan Pavkov.

Updated depth chart below if Mrkela's statements are accurate:

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, Zoran Popović, Nikola Vasiljević.

Right Fullback: Filip Stojković, Milan Gajić.

Central Defender: Vujadin Savić, Nemanja Milunović, Radovan Pankov, Srdjan Babić.

Left Fullback: Jander Santana, Marko Gobeljić.

Central Midfielders: Jose Alberto Canas, Branko Jovičić, Dušan Jovančić, Miloš Vulić.

Right Winger: El Fardu Ben, Milan Jevtović.

Creative Playmaker: Mirko Ivanić, Veljko Simić.

Left Winger: Marko Marin, Aleksa Vukanović.

Forwards: Tomané, Ričmond Boakye, Milan Pavkov.
 

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Good posts Mara and thanks for opening as I’ve been a bit busy lately.

I’d also add Veljko Nikolić who is currently injured but should be part of the squad this season.


Good to see Causic leave as he goes back to Arsenal Tula.
 

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I thought it’s worth providing an update to KK Crvena zvezda.

Lots of movement and much business has been completed recently. Much earlier than is normal and it has got fans very very excited.

To start we’ve mostly kept the same squad from last season.

Covic, Boriša, Baron, Lazić, Stratos, Ojo have all extended contracts and along with DeDa and Ognjen Dobric will form the core of our side.

We’ve been very busy the past week or so and the club have brought in the following:

Derrick Brown from Anadolu Efes
Ognjen Kuzmić returns from Madrid
Charles Jenkins returns from Khimki and

James Gist is about to sign from PAO

This leaves our side looking like this:

? Čović
Jenkins Baron
Davidovac
Lazić, Dobric, Stratos
Brown, Boriša, Mo Faye
Kuzmić, Gist, Ojo

There are significant rumours that we have either made offers or had talks with both Stef Jović & Teo.

Obviously the latter would be a bombshell of nuclear proportions. The fact he’s actually considering us is huge in light of the offers he’s receiving but would be unreal.

Covic has suggested that 2 players will definitely come in and there could be a third. This alludes to Gist who is not yet confirmed and a PG.

The third player and position remains a mystery.

Exciting times on our return to the Euroleague where the plan is for us to play all our home games in the Stark Arena.

The Pionir is currently being renovated and it’s unclear when it’ll be completed.

Would be amazing if we end up in a position where both our main clubs are playing in the elite club competition on a weekly basis.
 

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Zvezda plays Suduva from Lithuania today in a CL qualifier.
 

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0-0 at halftime.
 

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Weak. 0-0
 

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Teodosic signs with Virtus Bologna after tonnnes of speculation from his wife and media that he would sign for Zvezda. The fans are not happy.

Ognjen Kuzmic was in a terrible car accident. Prayers go out to him and his family hoping for a speedy recovery.
 

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Zvezda won 2-1. Gobeljic sent off after a very dangerous and unnecessary tackle that severely injured their player. They scored after Zvezda went down a man.
 

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Zvezda plays Helsinki in the next round, if we beat them we could potentially play Ajax, celtic, hajduk split, apoel, bate borisov or copenhagen
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
It's been a month since we started our pre-season in Zlatibor. It's kind of crazy how fast time flies. It's been a busy month as after we finalized our pre-season preparations in Austria, we came back to Belgrade to get ready for our first Champions league qualifier against Lithuanian champions FK Suduva Mariampolje, in the first round of Champions League qualifying. Throughout pre-season we saw the movement of Marin to the left wing, Ivanic being moved more centrally, Gobeljic becoming the designated right back in front of Stojkovic and our established 4-2-3-1 structure being reinforced with quicker play into the middle and quicker transitions when in the wings. Since we finished preparations in Austria, several changes unfolded in the squad. Most of the youth players have been sent back to Graficar for their first season in the second tier of Serbian football, which begs the name Prva Liga Srbije. This includes Aleksandar Stanković, Marko Konatar, Jug Stanojev, and Željko Gavrić. Stefan 'Cvele' Cvetkovic, the talented left winger after this last season in Graficar, where he tore up the Beogradska Zona third division was deemed surplus to requirements and was sold to Cukaricki where I'm sure his progress will be monitored in case he develops in line with his talent.

In terms of departures, Vujadin 'Giška' Savić departed us on a free to APOEL Nicosia (with 50% of any subsequent transfer coming to us) leaving us on three center backs currently. I will go into his departure in a separate post. In addition, Goran Čaušić has departed after a season in red and white going back to his former Russian club Arsenal Tula that he came from. Ultimately, even though Čaušić was a solid member of the rotation and came up good in the smaller games in the domestic league, he ultimately did not meet expectations for the reason he was brought, and that was in the biggest games within the Champions League as well as in the eternal derby. As such, he was sold him back to Arsenal for 500k, which represents a 500k loss on the 1 million spent on him. Arsenal agreed to waive the second 500k installment, and as such we effectively only paid 500k with Čaušić leaving on a free. This is a clear signal to everyone at the club, a really strong and motivational one, that if you don't meet Milojević's expectations, no matter how favored you are, you will be sold.

The reason I note this is because Goran Čaušić came to Zvezda under the wishes of Milojevic and that is why the club paid such a hefty sum for his services last summer on the last day of the transfer window, but Vladan saw his mistake after a season and has moved on, which is great to see. In addition to the departures, Erik Jirka and Dejan Meleg have been both loaned out to Radnički Niš have been deemed not quite ready for the first team. It will be interesting to see if either can make an impression in Niš as thus far Radnički have been horrible under Simo Krunić and have exited the Europa League qualifiers in the first round losing 1-3 on aggregate to Floria Tallinn. Jirka was a starter on the right wing in both games while Meleg started the first in Estonia.

On the arrival front since Austria, not much has happened. We've really settled on our current 26 and I believe we are only looking to sell if any offers come in, namely for Filip Stojkovic and Lorenzo Ebecilio. Current rumors don't lead to much, outside of us now needing another central back given Savić's departure, and it seems like we're trying to lure Miloš Degenek back on loan from Al-Hilal of the Saudi Premier League. It has been evident since Savic and Milunovic's partnership last season that we need one ball playing central defender next to Milunovic as our defense worked tremendously under the Savic-Le Tallec partnership in Milojevic's first season and then Savic-Degenek in Milojevic's second season. Pankov's arrival a month ago was supposed to be that answer as he was brought in to be the center back next to Milunovic, however his injury has really prevented him from integrating fully and becoming an integral part of the first team. As such, we're currently seeing Milunovic and Babic together, but that partnership is a tad slow, and I fully expect another central back to come to Zvezda before the end of the transfer window. Any other arrivals will really depend on any departures, which might include a forward in the case of Milan Pavkov's transfer given he has been rumored to be on his way to either China or France.

Updated depth chart below as of July 20, 2019, with 6 weeks remaining in the summer transfer window.

Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, Zoran Popović, Nikola Vasiljević.

Right Fullback: Marko Gobeljić, Filip Stojković, Milan Gajić.

Central Defender: Nemanja Milunović, Srdjan Babić, Radovan Pankov.

Left Fullback: Milan Rodić, Jander Santana.

Central Midfielders: Branko Jovičić, Dušan Jovančić, Jose Alberto Canas, Miloš Vulić.

Right Winger: El Fardu Ben, Milan Jevtović.

Creative Playmaker: Mirko Ivanić, Veljko Simić, Lorenzo Ebecilio.

Left Winger: Marko Marin, Aleksa Vukanović.

Forwards: Ričmond Boakye, Milan Pavkov, Tomané, Nikola Krstović.

Since the turn of July we played FK Suduva in Lithuania and drew 0-0 in Mariampolje on July 9th proving we were the better side in the first half but we were really unable to capitalize. We started in our traditional 4-2-3-1 with Borjan in goal, Gobeljic at right back, Milunovic and Babic in the center of defense and Rodic on the left side. In the center of midfield were Jovicic and Jovancic, an established pair at this point, and then in front of them we had Marin on the left, Ivanic in the center and Ben on the right wing. Boakye started up front. On the bench we had - Popovic, Stojkovic, the soon to depart Savic, Canas, Vukanovic, Simic and Pavkov. Throughout the second half Suduva had a couple of had chances but overall we played alright for how early it is in the season. Canas, Vukanovic and Pavkov came on throughout the second half with Canas having the brightest impact, becoming the first Spaniard ever to debut in a Zvezda jersey. FK Suduva played in a more compact formation, at times a 5-3-2. This, coupled with them being in the middle of the league season as well as having had a bunch of players from the Balkans join them over the past 6 months, resulted in a very close contest. Highlights are below.

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A week later it was time to put the tie to bed, and we did it in quite an impressive fashion, 2-1. The result really does not tell the whole story as we dominated the game from start to finish. We fielded an identical 11 from a week earlier and had Borjan, Gobeljic, Milunovic, Babic, Rodic, Jovicic, Jovancic, Ben, Ivanic, Marin and Boakye looking to press on from where they left off. We scored early, in the 4th minute after a fine through ball by Ben to Boakye who finished very well from a very acute angle, the type of finish which signaled a confident striker. The support only got louder as we pressed on for a second and this resulted in us going 2-0 up in the 30th minute after an awesome combination between Marin, Boakye, and Ben. Marin finished and we were in cruise control from that point on. An impressive crowd of 25,000 carried the team and we should have gone 3-0 at half time but Boakye's effort was well saved from the Suduva keeper as he palmed it onto the post. In the second half, Gobeljic went into a tackle very recklessly, even though he's not that type of player (I think his enthusiasm got the better of him) in the 60th minute and received a straight red in which Boakye then came off and Stojkovic came on to fill the gap at right back. Ben became the most attacking player with Marin looking to feed him. Remarkably, we kept attacking for the last 30 minutes and really should have put the game to bed. Ivanic had a 1v1 chance, then Ben hit the crossbar, then Pavkov had a solid chance as did Rodic. Suduva managed to grab one back in the 95th minute, the last minute of stoppage time after a great save by Borjan on the initial shot.

On the bench we had - Popovic, Stojkovic, Vulic, Vukanovic, Jevtovic, Simic, and Pavkov. Stojkovic came on for Gobeljic who will surely serve at least a 2 match suspension. Other subs that came on were Vukanovic for Ivanic and Pavkov for Marin. Overall, we played pretty well, never let our foot off the gas and I was extremely impressed that we continued to control the ball and the attack with 10 men. We could have easily retracted and became compact but instead we took the game by the horns and finished it. Marin, again, was the most impressive but it also has to be said that Milunovic showed excellent form, in possibly his best game for Zvezda since he came last winter. We're also seeing flashes of the old Boakye which is very much needed as Tomane, the Portuguese forward has shown up with a mild injury and will probably need another month or two to settle. Let's hope it continues. Highlights below.

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FK Crvena Zvezda vs. FK Suduva Mariampolje. 17.07.2019.

Left to right (top) - Borjan, Gobeljic, Milunovic, Jovancic, Babic, Rodic.
Left to right (bottom) - Boakye, Jovicic, Ben, Marin, Ivanic.

In addition to the highlights above, there was also a young British vLogger reaction video during the Arsenal-Zvezda match 2 seasons ago at the Arsenal stadium in the Europa League. He did a similar video this time around, and actually travelled from Montenegro to Belgrade to see the match. See below (if interested).

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Since our match on Wednesday, we have gotten our next rival in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, HJK Helsinki, the Finnish champions.

For those a bit older, I was 10 at the time when I actually watched this match live at the Marakana with my brother, we faced HJK Helsinki and lost 1-0 in Helsinki before winning the return leg 3-0 at home in 1997. We had a frenetic start to the game where Helsinki really couldn't come to terms with everything we were throwing at them and Ognjenovic and Stankovic were inspired. The noise I remember hearing as a kid when Deki scored his second was unreal for a kid at the time. To this day, anytime I see a volley with a pull back I still think of Deki. Njegus then put the tie to bed with our third. This was part of the UEFA Cup Winners Cup qualifying round, a competition I miss greatly and one I wished UEFA never rescinded. This fixture was played one season after the historical encounters against FC Kaiserslautern and FC Barcelona. After beating HJK Helsinki 3-1 on aggregate, we went to face Belgian side, Germinal Ekeren and a tie where we were heavily favored in the first round, but a tie where we lost 3-4 on aggregate, which I remember was quite a shock to us at the time, given what we had done the previous season. Either way, that 3-0 win against HJK Helsinki had some awesome names in the squad... including Dragoslav Jevric, Bratislav Zivkovic (one of my all time favorite Zvezda players), Zoran Njegus, Goran Bunjevcevic, Miodrag Pantelic, Zoran Jovicic, Dejan Stankovic and Perica Ognjenovic. Al-Kosan, in his prime, was our coach. :D

Currently, on paper, we should be the stronger side against Helsinki and we should go through, but we've seen crazy things happen already in the first qualifying round of this year's qualifiers, one of which was Ludogorets Razgrad, the Bulgarian champions and one of the perennial European group stage teams being eliminated by Ferencvárosi TC, the Hungarian champions. As such, we must be careful not to underestimate our competition, something I think Milojevic will not do. In addition, the Finnish championship is in full swing, so they will be more match ready than us at this stage. While we beat Suduva, HJK Helsinki beat HK Torshavn, the Faroe Islands champion by the score of 5-2 on aggregate in the first round of qualifying, winning 3-0 at home in the first leg before drawing 2-2 in the second leg. The first match will be played at the Marakana, on Wednesday, July 24th with the return fixture in Helsinki on July 31st. For those interested, below are the highlights from that match in 1997. Man, I miss Goran Bunjevcevic. Awesome captain.

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Today, we also kicked off the domestic league season at home against Javor Ivanjica in Round 1 of the 37 round LingLong Tire Super Liga... watch out Jelen Pivo :D

The key difference this season is there is no more division of points after the 30th round. The 'Championship/Relegation' round of 7 games will still be played after Round 30, but with the original point tally carrying over from the 'regular' 30 game season, as opposed to the division of points in two. This really means that all games now count the same which is a welcome change.

I watched the game live today and I was really impressed with what I saw from both sides. Javor are a solid squad, and they've hardly sold anyone from their title winning campaign from last season. They had a couple of solid half chances, but were largely ineffective, however their shape and quick countering was great to see from a promoted side. We, meanwhile, fielded a bit of a rotated squad (to be expected with the congested fixture calendar), with the starting 11 being Borjan, Stojkovic (instead of Gobeljic), Milunovic, Babic, Jander (instead of Rodic), Jovicic, Ivanic, Jevtovic (instead of Jovancic), Marin, Ben and Pavkov (instead of Boakye). I was really impressed by how well we spread the field and how quickly we got the ball to the wingers, namely to Jevtovic in the first half. Also, there were very specific instructions for one touch passing in the final third that resulted in several high quality chances.

We should have been 1-0 or 2-0 up within the first 10 minutes. We didn't take our chances then, but continued to look for an opening and created a piece of genius after a short corner combination between Ben, Marin, Jevtovic and Jovicic. Jovicic got the ball on the edge of the sixteen and put a rocket past the Javor keep. We kept pressing at will and created a great opportunity for Ben through Pavkov's great knock down and Ivanic's through ball. Ben got taken down, and the Javor right back, already on a yellow rightfully got a second yellow to get a red. Ben converted the penalty and from there things were easier. In our team I thought several players stood out, namely Jovicic, Ivanic who took Jovancic's place in central midfield, and Jander at left back who looks like he has endless energy. We will need that type of attacking full back once we really get into the meat of the season and Rodic needs a bit of a break. I was really happy with what I saw because like in the game against Suduva, we didn't take our foot off the gas. We kept attacking and we were just a bit unfortunate not to score 1, 2 or even 3 more goals. Players that came on included Simic for Jander, Vulic for Ivanic and Boakye for Pavkov. Vulic had a couple of good touches and Boakye nearly scored. With this fixture done, we turn to Wednesday, in a must win game before we head to Helsinki. We must avoid conceding a goal at home, otherwise we will be putting ourselves in a world of bother before the second leg. We then face Radnicki Nis at home during the weekend before we end July with a trip to Helsinki for the return leg of the second round of Champions League qualifying.

Highlights of the Javor game are below.

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Zeko lopove...
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Also, it's worth noting that the club are trying to improve their relationship with the fanbase. As such, you can become a football club member and buy a season ticket online. See links below. The only drawback is that you have to have a Serbian address for the delivery of the season ticket as they otherwise won't deliver it outside of Serbia. For the club membership you can get the membership card delivered abroad.

Become a club member here - https://budideozvezde.rs/

Buy a season ticket here - https://www.iticket.rs/sr/all.html
 
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