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Akhmat Grozny Akhmat Grozny
Akhmat have existed in mid-table for way too long now (7 consecutive seasons of mid-table finishes) and coach Rakhimov is given the task to try and qualify the Chechens for Europe this season. Akhmat released several underperforming players in the summer, while big money were paid for the right winger Michalak, plus vastly experienced Glushakov joined on free. With them added to the already impressive group of quality midfielders Akhmat look like a team that should be able to dominate in the middle of the park in most games. The main issue in previous seasons has been the absence of prolific goalscorer and this seems likely to continue being the Achilles heel for the Chechens. Mbenge showed flashes of brilliance at times in the last 3 seasons and this is likely to be the year in which the Senegalese forward is finally rewarded with the role of main striker. Rakhimov is flexible with his formation choices and he is a manager not afraid to pick various shapes depending on the opponent. Last season Akhmat used 3,4 and 5 at the back in different games and this constant changing of shapes is likely to continue. At the minute Akhmat have only 4 typical defenders on their books, but with at least 3 new names likely to sign with the Chechens soon cover options should be available. Youngster Ravanelli had very strong spring and if he continues with his positive progression he might be the team’s big star throughout the campaign. The Brazilian is mainly used in the number ten role, but he feels comfortable also in the false nine role.
Arsenal Tula
Arsenal Tula were a sensation in the second half of last season as they turned into a contender for the top places from being just an average mid-table side before the winter break. The coach managed to impressively mould a tight defensive unit that also carried a lot of threat down the wings and now Arsenal have a European campaign to look forward to. The squad looks a lot lighter and shorn of quality going into the new season as a slew of loan players returned to their parent clubs. The pair of wingers, Zelimhan Bakaev and Riuzan Mirzov, will be the ones that will be missed the most. Evgeni Lutsenko is expected to be the leading attacking player next season after joining from Dinamo and, while he is canny and defensively a physical presence in the box, he is definitely a downgrade on Luka Djordjevic. Igor Cherevchenko has already proved that he is smart and adaptable and there are bound to be new signings coming in the weeks ahead but at the moment Arsenal look devoid of firepower and also run the risk of losing more important players, most notably Mikhail Belayev at the back.
Country flag Super League Guide
FC Basel FC Basel
Basel have endured a thoroughly disappointing 2018/19 season, with their poor form in the early stages of the campaign resulting in their elimination from Europe and also seeing their European campaign end early on. The Red-Blues have steadily improved under Marcel Koller and played in excellent form during the second half of the campaign, but this revival came too late for them to challenge Young Boys, who won their second consecutive title. Rulers supreme of the Swiss football before being overtaken by the Berners, the Red-Blues are always hoping to win domestic titles, but their playing squad has not improved much over the course of the summer. Former skipper Marek Suchy has left, with Omar Alderete signing as a like-for-like replacement, while the promising Kemal Ademi joins from Xamax to boost the attacking ranks. While the squad seems to be on a similar level as in the previous season, the Red-Blues will be hoping to keep improving under Koller and enter the new campaign with the belief that the fine form from the second half of the previous season was not their actual peak. Interestingly enough, Fabian Frei has been stripped of captaincy during the summer, with Valentin Stocker the new skipper. The reason is that Frei reportedly tried to communicate his ideas to the club's hierarchy behind Koller's back. The experienced midfielder is now third in line for captaincy and, although the situation seems to have been resolved, it remains to be seen if what was widely seen as a demonstration of authority by Koller will have a negative effect on the situation in the squad.
FC Luzern
Luzern have had a roller coaster of a season last time around but eventually managed to qualify for Europe by the skin of their teeth. It was therefore a decent campaign for the Blues on overall and they will enter the new campaign with hope, having significantly improved after Thomas Haberli was appointed their manager during the second half of the previous season. Their squad has not changed too much over the summer. They have decided to undergo a clearout of sorts, with numerous fringe players leaving, while club stalwart Claudio Lustenberger has retired. The sole key player to have left is Ruben Vargas, who signs for Augsburg, and the club tried to address his departure with the signing of two strikers in the experienced Francesco Margiotta from Lausanne and the promising Aziz Binous from Zurich. The squad therefore looks to be on a similar level as last time around, but there is obviously room for improvement. They only started playing consistently well in the late stages of the previous campaign and, with the league seemingly wide open, can hope for an even higher finish if they manage to do that. While Luzern have qualified for Europe several times over the last ten years or so, they had no memorable continental campaigns and had numerous disappointing exits. They are not exactly expected to make the Europa League group stage, but a change of pace and a decent run in the qualifiers would be seen as a big plus.

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