Bayern Munich return to the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, when Red Star visit the Allianz Arena. After Stephen Warnock’s embarrassing “analysis” of Red Star following the Champions League draw, we wanted an expert. We needed someone who actually knows something about Red Star.
I went to Red Star supporter Kirsten Schlewitz. Kirsten is a friend and the reason I got involved with SB Nation oh so many years ago. She’s terrific and one of the smartest fans that I know.
Q: Last year in the Champions League, Red Star Belgrade (Should we be calling them Red Star Belgrade or Crvena Zvezda?) beat Liverpool and drew Napoli. They showed they can get a positive result on a big stage against big clubs, but they weren’t able to gather any other points last year. This year’s group is a bit easier, so is more being expected?
A: Red Star *is* the name (Crvena Zvezda); it’s “Red Star Belgrade” we get annoyed with. It’s like saying “Schalke Gelsenkirchen,” except technically that’s part of Schalke’s official name, whereas “Belgrade” isn’t part of ours...so I guess it’s more like the campaign to get “Lisbon” out of “Sporting Lisbon,” or saying “Chelsea London.”
Anyway, I don’t think we have particularly high expectations this year. It’s really tough to get to the UCL group stage when you start in the first qualifying round (beating four opponents before everyone else even thinks Champions League has started) so making it for the second year in a row is a thrill.
Obviously we’ll be looking for that Liverpool magic, but given that teams have seen we can get four points off big clubs at the Marakana, they’ll unfortunately be prepared and won’t go in thinking it’s a walk, like Napoli and Liverpool did (clearly Liverpool also underestimated Napoli). What’s really intriguing is the friendship between Olympiacos and Zvezda. The final game brings Red Star to Athens, so if either of those teams needs points, we may see the other sit back and let them go at it.
Q: Who is in the engine in this team that makes everything else works? How do they get to a successful result in the Allianz Arena?
A: Well, first, I’ll say that a successful result in Munich is probably a draw. In that case, it’s the discipline of the defense that will earn an (unlikely) point. Unfortunately, our only right-back isn’t available for Champions League because we don’t have enough homegrown players, so we could only register 23 players, and our starting right-back got hurt after that list was submitted, and our backup, Milan Gajić, isn’t registered.
Even so, zvezda is pretty disciplined at the back and may move to three central defenders. Up front, it is Marko Marin, of course, that makes everything tick. He’s the one that created both chances for Milan Pavkov against Liverpool, he assisted against Napoli, and he scored against PSG. I can’t say he’ll really make a dent against Bayern, and you’ll likely destroy our defense, disciplined or not, but those are the factors that could contribute to a less-ugly scoreline for zvezda.
Q: The authorities in Munich have instructed the police to be on the alert in anticipation of the arrival of Red Star’s away fans. Do the club and fans deserve this reputation, or is Munich’s response exaggerated?
A: Maybe a bit of both? One thing to consider is that much of the diaspora of Serbs lives closer to Munich than Belgrade, and they wear their zvezda pride possibly more loudly than those from Belgrade. It’s often these fans that cause trouble considering they want to “prove themselves.” That’s not saying the locals won’t be problematic, but for the most part the Delije (the Red Star “ultras”) understand that this is a big deal for the club, and they don’t want to risk having the games in Belgrade be closed to fans (it’s the Marakana atmosphere that helps the team get a result, after all) or risk losing points, or even being suspended from European play.
There’s always the chance some individual idiot or idioti who might decide to start a fight or something worse, but the organized fans coming from Belgrade? No, they’ll be passionate and they’ll be loud, but there won’t be the fighting (or the fire) that most associate with Red Star fans.
Currently, you can find Kirsten on Twitter @kdschlewitz the terrific site Unusual Efforts. While they’re on a slight break, you can find the UE podcast on the Man on the Post feed. In the meantime, be sure to vote in their Fantasy Premier League best team name contest.