Champions League Manager 97/98 – Meet The Teams: Red Star Belgrade 1991 & Barcelona 1992

Hello ladies and gents. The draw has been made and the teams have been assigned their managers. We start with Red Star Belgrade 1991, who’ll be managed by Rob Tait (aka @Taitanator). Rob scooped last year’s CM Cup, so he comes into this on good form, and it looks like he’ll need it to get the best out of what is on paper, one of the weaker teams in the competition, over to Rob…

When I think back to football in the ‘90s there are a few memories that have stuck in my mind.

Newcastle lost 2-3 at home to Man Utd in the FA Cup 5th round (Feb 1990). I remember this vividly because my dad’s best friend is a Man Utd fan and after the game he rang the house phone to gloat. 7 year-old me was not too happy about this and dropped the F-Bomb on him before smashing the phone down.

Italia ‘90, Platt’s volley against Belgium and West Germany vs England in the semi-final.

Funnily enough what I don’t remember is the 1991 Champions League final, in fact the first Champions League final I remember features another team in this competition, Milan ‘94 hammering Barcelona 4-0 and a certain Daniele Massaro. However there is a link, Dejan Savicevic played for Red Star in their ‘91 victory before moving to Milan.

It is not surprising that I don’t remember the ‘91 final after all I was only 8, it finished 0-0 after extra time, Red Star beating Marseille 5-3 on penalties and I was probably sent to bed before they happened. In a 2011 interview, Sinisa Mihajovic said this about the final.

“That final is still vivid in my memory. I think it was the most boring final match in European Cup history. A few hours before the match, seven of us were shown tapes of Marseille matches. I remember (manager) Ljupko Petrovic telling us ‘If we attack them we’ll leave ourselves open for counter attacks’, to which I asked ‘so, what do we do then?’ His answer was ‘When you get the ball, give it back to them’. So we spent 120 minutes on the pitch without practically touching the ball.”

These seem like very strange tactics from Petrovic, especially since my research suggests they played a style of football similar to the gegenpress. Pressing opponents aggressively in midfield and then counter attacking with great pace and skill. They beat an excellent Bayern Munich side 2-1 away in the first leg of the semi-final playing just like this. So why such a negative approach in the final, hoping to win on penalties? Well maybe it was a tactical master stroke from Petrovic because at the time all games that ended in a draw in the Yugoslav First League went to penalties to decide the winner. Red Star triumphed and here I am managing them in the CM97/98 Champions Champions League.

So a little bit about my team and what I’m going to try and do in the competition.  I’m going to try and play a team as close to the winning 11 as possible, which means, taking inspiration from @9798Nikolai I have come up with an asymmetric tactic to fit everyone into.  I’m not deliberately going to keep giving the ball back to the opposition for 90 minutes either, it will probably happen, but it is not the primary gameplan.

So who are the ones to watch? Well I’m not really sure, I only knew three players on the team before I started doing some research but here is the squad and here is what I have found.

Sweeper, Miodrag Belodedici is the only none former Yugoslavian in the team.  He is a Romanian and former European Cup winner with Steaua Bucharest in 1986.  He fled Romania in 1988, defecting to Yugoslavia and stating that he would only play for Red Star.  Despite being found guilty of treason in Romania and sentenced to 10 years in prison (I’m guessing he didn’t go back to Romania to serve this) he became a key member of the team and European Cup winning side. Nicknamed ‘The Deer’ for his elegant style he will be the linchpin of my defensive three.

Right winger, Dragisa Binic apparently used to tell people he could run the 100m in 10.5 seconds, I have no evidence to support this and his database value is set at random (0) so who knows if he was telling the truth.  I do know (having watched a grainy youtube clip) that he looked quick when latching onto Prosinecki’s beautiful pass before crossing wonderfully for Pancev to score the first goal in Red Star’s 2-1 away win against Bayern in the Semis.  

Striker, Darko Pancev nicknamed ‘Kobra’ for his lethal finishing scored (according to wikipedia) 116 goals in 141 games for Red Star.  He was Ballon d’Or runner up and European Golden Shoe/Boot winner in 1991.  He also had a little bro-mance going with strike partner Dejan Savicevic, both players still state that the other was the best partner they ever played with.

Left midfield, Sinisa Mihajlovic who can be found in CM9798 with some great stats plying his trade in the city of Genoa with Sampdoria. The phrase “Wand of a left foot” was created because of this guy (this might not actually be true, there were probably a few handy left footers around before 1990). I thoroughly enjoyed the 7 mins 28 seconds I spent watching his 66 freekick goals on youtube and I feel confident that the high number of freekick goals scored in CM97/98 will play right into our hands!

Forward, Dejan Savicevic, Kobra’s best mate and most well known for his time with AC Milan. His CM97/98 stats are really good and we will be looking for him to score and create chances with his high stats for creativity, flair, pace, off the ball, passing, shooting and technique. The main concern is how many games will he manage to play with an injury proneness of 18!

Midfield, Robert Prosinecki, a player who at times looked like he was playing a different game to the other 21 players on the pitch.  A mercurial talent whose passing, flair and technique will be needed to pull the strings if we are to have any success.  He is another one though who has a very high injury proneness so how many games we can get out of him, only time will tell.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing this little piece about my Red Star team and I’m looking forward to seeing how they do in the Champions Champions League. I can say with some confidence that with a Deer at the back and a Kobra up top Red Star are probably the best team that you kind of vaguely remember.

Barcelona have won 4 of their 5 Champions League crowns since 2006, but their first came in 1992 when Ronald Koeman’s extra time goal ended their wait for European glory. Until then, Barca had lost in the final twice, in 1961 and 1986 respectively. It’s the job of our Belgian blog team member, Philip Verbist (@verbist_philip) to try and guide their 1992 side to modern day glory. Here’s Philip with his expectations for the coming season…

Hola!

First of all I would like to say what an honour it is to participate in the 9798 Champions League challenge. They have been talking about it for so long, and I am happy it is finally happening and we are part of it.

Our expectations? That’s hard to say and to predict. Only the best manangers and teams participate, so competition will be fierce. I am expecting everything will be close, so we need to be at our best every game. We have a great home crowd and success will largely depend on how well we will perform at home. I believe strongly in our capabilities, but we will have to see how things go.

I understand, the main thing you all want to know is what tactic we will use. All I am prepared to say for now, is that we will play more experimental than you are used to seeing from my side.

OK, I will take one last question. Who will be our starting 11? Interesting question. It will be a long season, so I am convinced everybody in the squad will get opportunities to demonstrate their ability. Our captain will be José Maria Bakero. He is a true leader and his mindset will guide the team. Defensively our stallwart will be Miguel Angel Nadal, his nickname is The Beast for a reason. His physical presence will be a tremendous asset for us. And I will give you one freebie: offensively I am counting on the consistency and infiltration skills of Guillermo Amor.

Hasta Luego!

Join us tomorrow where we’ll continue the countdown with Zak and Dave, who give us their thoughts on Marseille 1993 and Milan 1994.

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