Rubin Kazan will be and are by far the biggest European team in the group. That is no disrespect to Zulte Waregem or NK Maribor, both of whom are big teams in their own right, yet in terms of European experience then Kazan are the biggest.
One of the biggest football clubs in Russia the team is only 55 years old (having been formed in 1958). They started out life playing in the Soviet Union National Leagues, never rising above the second tier.
When the Soviet Union broke down in the early 1990’s, Rubin Kazan went into the second tier of Russian football; lasting only two seasons before being relegated to the third and final tier of Russian football. Here they remained until 1997 upon promotion back to the Second tier.
Symmetry between our two clubs here, both winning their respective leagues and climbing out of the bottom tiers of football in the year of 1997.
Promotion again for both teams would come in the same year. In 2002 while we were lifting the then Second Division Championship, Rubin were also lifting the second division trophy and embarking on a decade of success, as they reached the Russian Premier League.
Five seasons of European football, two league titles, two third place finishes and two Russian Cup final places (winning one); have seen Rubin Kazan make their mark on Russian football. Three times they have been in the Champions League, twice reaching the group stages and on both occasions finishing third.
In the Europa League/UEFA Cup they have gone as far as the quarter finals, doing this last season where they played Chelsea. Losing the first leg away from home 3-1, before winning 3-2 at home in the return leg.
This will be a side which will be up for the game, and has the experience and the talent to wash us away. So far they have won both European games beating Maribor 5-2 away from home, and Zulte Waregem 4-0 at home.
This will be a tough game.