Originally published on the 23rd of June 2014
Updated on the 11th of July 2014
Updated on the 14th of July 2014
They turned Champions in 2013 for the 8th time and they are the second most-titled club in Estonia. It took four years to clinch a title again since the club changed policy: from high spending to academy-oriented. In the end, the project was successful as most of the starting XI of the 2013 season comes from the academy.
Very few changes compared to 2013.
The topscorer, Rimo Hunt, left for Kazhakstan. After some problems on the striking line, the replacement (Vladislav Ivanov) past an initial difficult period, managed to have a comeback and get on top of the topscorers table (he is now second with 14 goals behind teammate Igor Subbotin - 15). Ivanov was already at the club in 2009. Due to an injury, he is not travelling with the squad to Prague. After a period abroad (Greece and Russia) he returned to Estonia at Sillamäe Kalev first and Narva Trans later (his hometown club - he opted for Russian citizenship and collected some caps with the Russia U-21). The last spells in Russia (Luch-Energia and Khimik) were the stopovers before returning to Levadia. He won the topscorers table with Sillamäe Kalev in 2012 with 23 goals. His partner up front is Ingemar Teever, already at the club last season.
Ivanov missed the return game against San Marino Champions, La Fiorita, due to a slight injury. He shall return for the first tie in Prague (15th of July)
Another new face is the Egyptian Omar El-Hussieny who reached Levadia in winter and has favourably impressed. The first Egyptian in Premium Liiga (read a full interview with him here) plays on the left flank even though he admitted himself to prefer the trequartista role, not feasible in a 4-4-2 formation. He has scored three goals during this season and served also some assists. He fancies to run down the flank and exploits his dribbling abilities to cut in the middle and either release a pass or try the shot.
He recently returned from a calf injury and entered the pitch in the seconda half of Levadia-La Fiorita 7-0 by baptizing his European Cups' debut with a goal (3-0).
His purchase was meant to replace international Dmitri 'Dima' Kruglov set to leave for a contract abroad. With the return of the same player from Azerbaijan in the past weeks, coach Marko Kristal might have more options to change formation. However, Dima might not be available until August due to injury.
Another winter addition was the Serbian Dragomir Vukobratovic, a Crvena Zvzeda (Red Star Belgrade) grown. The defensive midfielder was brought to replace another departing international, Aleksandr Dmitrijev (now injured and without a club). His performance has been quite satisfying notwithstanding he is prone to collect cards. He came to Levadia from Russian club Gazovik Orenburg.
Toni Tipuric is a central defender of Austrian citizenship and Bosnian origin (he was born in Sarajevo). Recently added, he is meant to replace central defender Aleksei Jahhimovitś, involved in a match fixing scandal dating back to some years ago and suspended until 31st of December 2014. He also scored a goal on his European Cups' second game fixing the score on 6-0 for Levadia against La Fiorita (SMR) in Tallinn (7-0 FT).
The rest of the XI is the same as 2013. In front of giant Ukrainian goalie, Roman Smishko (captain) we can find solid central defender Artjom Artjunin (Estonian international) endowed with a powerful left-footed shot on setpieces, and full-backs Artur Pikk (left) and Maksim Podholjuzin (right) with the former more offensive than the latter. Vukobratovic’s midfield partner is another international, Ilja Antonov. Igor Subbotin, nr.10 on the shirt and so far second best topscorer of the club (11 nettings), occupies the right flank and has netted a brace against La Fiorita in the 7-0 win in Tallinn.
4-4-2 is Marko Kristal credo. He has never abandoned it during the past season but conceded a small variation with 4-4-1-1 when he was able to field U-21 talent Artur Rättel behind a centre forward (Hunt or Ivanov/Teever). With Rättel seriously injured (knee, season virtually over), he’s sticking to two towers up front (Ivanov-Teever) and is allowing Subbotin to cut often in for support and additional danger to bring in the box. He is expecting another striker from the transfer market (news and updates can be followed here under 'FC Levadia') since the line is quite thin (only Ivanov and Teever there with young Henry Rohtla given little playing time and used mostly in the double team). He has used Heiko Tamm on the left during El-Hussieny absence. He might resort to 4-2-3-1 allowing the Egyptian to play in his preferred position. Having another formation to field would give much more flexibility in European competitions as against La Fiorita he simply switched players' positions by keeping the same formation. Unlikely he will go for a change in the eve of taking the Czech champions.
Streak in Europe
With 52 games played in Europe, Levadia boasts the best tally among Estonian clubs: 13 wins* (including this season), 11 draws and 27 losses.
Last season (Europa League) they got better of Welsh semi-pro Bala Town FC on a tight 3-2 aggregate (Bala was one goal away from qualifying in Tallinn) and were overwhelmed by Pandurii Targu Jiu (ROM) on 4-0 aggregate. In Tallinn they managed to hold the Romanian side on a goalless draw after goalkeeper Smishko was elected MOTM by acclamation.
With San Marino Champions this season it was all easy: after a surprising tight win away grabbed in injury time in San Marino, they rolled La Fiorita 7-0 in Tallinn. The 7-0 is the largest European win an Estonian club has ever managed to achieve.
The best memories of Levadia in Europe are tied with UEFA Cup 2006-07 when they went through to the first round against Newcastle United (who eliminated them 1-3 on aggregate) after going past Finnish Haka and Dutch Twente.
The furthest they got in Champions League (setting the country’s record first) has been the third qualifying round (2009-10) when they were eliminated by Debrecen from Hungary (0-2 agg).
Remarkable opponents were Steaua Bucuresti (ROM - UEFA Cup, 1999-00) Shakthar Donetsk (UKR - Champions League, 2000-01) Crvena Zvezda (SRB – Champions League, 2007-08) Wisla Krakow (POL – Champions League, 2009-10) and Galatasaray (TUR – Europa League, 2009-10). With Galatasary, they set another record being the first Estonian club to reach the Europa League play-offs (they lost 1-6 on agg).
*the wins tally does not includes a 3-0 awarded to Levadia for having Uniao de Leira fielded an uneligible player.
· The first European win came against Welsh side TNS (4-0) as the first draw (2-2 in the return game in Wales).
· Indro Olumets scored the first European goal (in the 1-4 loss against Steaua).
· The owner of the club is Viktor Levada, in the business of metal recycling and production.
· The coach, Marko Kristal, is former Estonian international: second best for caps, 143, ahead of his assistant coach, former striker Indrek Zelinski (103).
· Levadia is the second most-titled Estonian club as they have won also 8 Estonian Cups (titleholders) and 5 Estonian Supercups (runners-up).
· It’s the first and only club to have had an Italian coach (Franco Pancheri, interview available here) and the first to bring an Italian player (Alessandro Rottoli). However, they did not last longer than a season with Pancheri leaving the club mid-season after a streak of negative domestic results.
· With Flora, they light up the ‘Tallinn’s Derby’ which, in recent times, has been renamed as ‘Tallinn El-Clasico’.
· Their training centre in Maarjamäe, it was inaugurated by no less than Portuguese legend, Eusebio.
· The home stadium is Kadriorg Park Stadium. However, in third qualifying round and play-off, this facility doesn’t meet the UEFA regulations. If Levadia will reach those, they will move to A.LeCoq Arena (national team and FC Flora home stadium built in 2001, simply named as Lilleküla Stadium under UEFA competitions). Kadriorg Park Stadium dates back to 1926 and underwent several renovations.
Guide to Tallinn city (ENG)
Levadia on 'Rumori di Spogliatoio'
Match reports from 2014 season (from older to newer)
FC Infonet vs. Levadia
Levadia vs. Narva Trans
Levadia vs. Paide
Levadia vs. Sillamäe
Kalev vs. Levadia
Levadia vs. Tammeka
Kalju vs. Levadia
Levadia vs. Flora
Levadia vs. Kalju