Breidablik may have been too busy preparing for their second leg against Aberdeen to have paid much attention to the early kick-off between their potential next-round opponents, and for the sake of their blood pressure let’s hope so.
Having been denied use of their own faultless synthetic pitch last week because the facilities surrounding it were deemed insufficient, they would hardly have been comforted seeing Qarabag and AEL Limassol carving chunks out of a surface woefully unbecoming of Azerbaijan’s former national stadium.
UEFA dignitaries may have had a more prestigious evening and better parking, but they should remember that they are not the main event.
Qarabag’s European base was previously named after Stalin, then Lenin, and now the linesman who awarded Geoff Hurst’s goal in the World Cup final. It’s arguable which is worst, but there is no debate the pitch in Baku will be the poorest Aberdeen will play on in this Conference League campaign.
They will need to be careful, in three respects.
As well as finding the right approach to get an acceptable result in conditions unlikely to be at all advantageous to teams who enjoy moving the ball on the ground, the Dons players will also need to keep themselves safe from injury, and hope to avoid mis-steps on a sandy, divot-riddled park launching them into card-worthy challenges.
For there is no doubt this is, by far, Aberdeen’s best chance to reach a group phase since they returned to Europe in 2014. Qarabag are a seeded side in the next stage and deserve the respect that position commands, but, compared to many of the alternatives, it is not an unmanageable proposition.
If Aberdeen can navigate the trip to this most unfamiliar of territory, whilst sustaining no more than surface damage, Pittodrie’s turf could see a big night in two weeks.