SPECIAL - Preseason interviews
Omar El-Hussieny: success in Europe comes from success in Premium Liiga
Ivan Pecha: I am in the best Estonian club
Story and facts in brief
Founded as Levadia Maardu, a suburban town in Tallinn’s outskirts, the club later moved to Tallinn. Their training camp is located in the city district of Pirita on Maarjamäe hill, with the inaugaration being performed by the great Eusebio no less.
The owner of the club is Ukrainian entrepreneur, Viktor Levada.
The club reached Meistriliiga/Premium Liiga and immediately won their first title and treble in 1999. They have managed to go through one leg of the Champions League several times, going into battle with the likes of Shaktar Donetsk, Debrecen and Red Star Belgrade.
In the UEFA Cup 2006-07 they managed to reach the third round stage and played a tie with English side Newcastle United, which at present is the only clash at club level between an Estonian club and an English one in European cups.
Levadia has the chance to level titles with Flora (23) tonight when they will take on Santos Tartu (second tier) for the Estonian Supercup.
With city rivals challenging for the 2015 title to celebrate their 25th birthday, Levadia are out to ruin the party and possibly overtake them in the silverware stockpiling race.
Transfers (full stories here)
Martin Ustaal (EST - AMF, end of loan to Paide Linnameeskond)
Mark Oliver Roosnupp (EST - AMF, professional contract)
Kristjan Tamme (EST - GK, professional contract)
Aleksey Shirokov (RUS - GK, free agent)
Siim Luts (EST - LW, free agent)
Ivan Pecha (SVK - CD/RB, free agent)
Artjom Rahmanov (BLR - CB, Grodno Nemanit, BLR)
Taavi Rähn (EST - CB, FC Flora)
Maksim Lipin (EST - RW, FC Infonet)
Kaimar Saag (EST - FW, Assyriska FF, SWE)
Juuso Laitinen (EST - CB, FC Jazz Pori, FIN)
Hindrek Ojamaa (EST - RB, Tammeka Tartu)
Sergei Pareiko (EST - GK, Nizhny Novgorod, RUS)
Maksim Podholjuzin (EST - LB, suspended until 5.12.2016 for matchfixing)
Madis Vihmann (EST - CD, FC Flora)
Igor Subbotin (EST - AMF, Mlada Boleslav, CZE)
Artjom Artjunin (EST - CD, FC Brasov, ROM)
Aleksandr Volchkov (UKR - CD, FC Ararat, ARM)
Roman Smisko (UKR - GK, Narva Trans)
Dragomir Vukobratovic (SRB - MF, NK Osjek, CRO)
Toni Tipuric (AUT, CD, free agent)
Janko Penic (CRO - LW, free agent)
Kaspar Paur (EST - RW, on loan to Paide Linnameeskond)
Martin Ustaal (EST - AMF, on loan to Paide Linnameeskond)
Marek Kaljumäe (EST - DMF, Narva Trans)
Lauri Välja (EST - CMF, on loan Paide Linnameeskond)
Heiko Tamm (EST - RW, Tammeka Tartu)
Kristen Saarts (EST - FW, on loan to Pärnu Linnameeskond)
Kristjan Tamm (EST - GK, on loan to Pärnu Linnameeskong)
Coach: Marko Kristal (confirmed)
Registered players at Premium Liiga website
Realistic Targets for 2015
2014 Premium Liiga champions Levadia have had something of a mini-overhaul during the off-season. After overcoming squad dramas to take the title, they will hope for something a little more settled this campaign. A number of first-teamers have departed, most notably Igor Subbotin, Dragomir Vukobratovic and captain Roman Smisko, but Kristal has made a couple of unknown signings that could make or break his side’s 2015 title charge.
First-teamer Subbotin finally completed a move away from the club, with Artjom Artjunin, Smisko and Vukobratovic also sealing transfers. Toni Tipuric and Janko Penic, who both joined the club midway through last season, also depart the club after seemingly successful spells. Aleksandr Volchkov has left for Armenia, Madis Vihmann has moved to city rivals Flora, and Maksim Podholjuzin is suspended until the end of 2016 for matchfixing.
Artur Rättel should return for the start of the season after missing a huge chunk of 2014 through injury, and Levadia have moved quickly to try and replace the aforementioned departing players.
Marko Kristal has run the rule over a number of defenders from around Europe and the former soviet states to try to plug the holes he claims he has been left with in his side’s back line. Taavi Rähn is the most notable signing, moving across the city from rivals Flora, with Artjom Rahmanov joining from Grodno Nemanit in Belarus, free agent Ivan Pecha signing on, and Juuso Laitinen arriving from FC Jazz Pori Finland.
Ex-Flora winger Siim Luts joins after a year in Norway, with Kristjan Tamme and Mark Oliver Roosnupp signing professional contracts.
Omar Elhussieny has signed a contract extension, which offers Levadia some sort of continuity, with Ingemar Teever also staying on. They have signed well-known Premium Liiga winger Maksim Lipin from Infonet, along with Kaimar Saag from Assyriska FF. These attacking recruitments need to adapt quickly, and it will be interesting to see if Saag does so.
Tarmo Kink after training with Levadia, finally settled in Scotland, but the signing of Maksim Lipin could prove to be a master stroke.
If we consider last season's squad , there are barely 11 players left from that group, meaning that Levadia's turnover has been significant.
Kristal will surely be faithful to his 4-4-2 system, and the likes of El-Hussieny, Antonov, Raudsepp and Pikk will guarantee some sort of continuity. Rättel and Teever will be expected to shoulder the responsibility of scoring goals early on while the new signings bed in. Subbotin's goals will surely be missed, but the strength that Levadia have brought in gives them hope. Will a Rähn-led defence be the best once again?
The titleholders have a lot of issues in their starting line-up, as pre-season has not seen steady results come their way.
The signing of Sergeri Pareiko on Deadline Day was the final icing on the cake. Levadia have now four goalkeepers with Pikker seeing the double team more likely.
Artur Pikk, Andreas Raudsepp and Pavel Marin have had varying levels of success in the first team, with the latter seeking more appearances this season. Mark Oliver Roosnupp could also be one to keep an eye on.
Levadia's hopes might rest on the adaptation to Estonia of their foreign signings. Rahmanov and Pecha are expected to be fairly quick additions to the first team, but Taavi Rähn will provide invaluable experience in the heart of defence.
Siim Luts is joined by Kaimar Saag and Juuso Laitinen, with the return of Artur Rättel being like a new signing to the 2014 title winners.
We cannot obviously ignore Sergei Pareiko.
by Chris Johns