These guys are pretty much Celtic F.C. … of the Georgian Premier League. They have 14 league titles since 1990, when the Georgian Football Federation founded the league. After a recent dry spell, Dinamo Tbilisi found themselves on top of the league once again last season.
The league is all sorts of messed up with only 12 teams (it had 20 teams for the 1991-92 campaign). The 2nd division has 24 teams knocking on the door to play in the GPL.
Dinamo Tbilisi has a very large stadium capable of holding 53, 279. The official stadium of the Georgian national team is not always full, but with Tottenham Hotspur being the largest club to play there in quite some time, Spurs will be dealing with a full stadium and a hostile crowd.
The two teams have not played since the 1973-74 UEFA Cup third round when Spurs won 6-2 on aggregate.
Who should we watch for?
Dinamo Tbilisi consist of mostly Georgian players (17 on the roster), but there are a few players who may catch your eye.
Xisco, a Spanish winger for the club, could serve as a small challenge for Tottenham’s back line. He has experience in La Liga with 40 appearance for Valencia, 73 appearances for Betis, and 54 appearance for Levante. However, he only scored 22 goals in his 167 appearances. He moved to Dinamo Tbilisi in 2011 at the age of 30, where the story has been much different. Xisco has 50 goals in 79 appearance for the club. He was the leading scorer in the league with 22 goals last year.
Ustaritz is the second Spanish player for the club. He is a centre back, and he also has La Liga experience, with 85 appearance with Athletic Bilbao and 7 on loan with Real Betis. After scoring one goal in those 92 appearance (nothing unusual for a defender), he has already scored 3 goals in 16 appearances for Dinamo Tbilisi.
It is very apparent that the quality of the Georgian Premier League is poor when you consider these spikes in performance from players who were not dominant in La Liga and have gained no recognition from the Spanish national team.
Dinamo Tbilisi have another player this off-season who has already netted two goals in his first six appearances with the club (some off the bench). Patrick Vouho has been brought over from the Greek club AEL Limassol where he scored 20 goals in his 45 appearances as a striker. Vouho is 26 years old, but he has yet to register a cap for his home nation of Ivory Coast.
The last player to watch for is Jaba Dvali. The Georgian forward is 28 (although he looks a bit older than that), and he has spent all of his career in the league, playing mostly for Dinamo Tbilisi. He has 148 goals in 275 appearances.
What should we expect?
A win. Expect a win. Tottenham Hotspur may take a while to get used to the atmosphere (Eastern European fans are a different breed), but expect a better performance than the one we saw against Crystal Palace. Dinamo Tbilisi is not Barclays Premier League quality, and we should be looser and looking to net goals that are not from the penalty spot.
AVB will use this match to continue to build chemistry between his new signings. Paulinho and Soldado will look to link up on some passes, and I expect that Etienne Capoue will play some more, considering his dominant 33 minutes against Crystal Palace.
Nacer Chadli showed some real aggression towards goal last game, and I expect that to continue. Do not be surprised if the new signing scores his first goal for Spurs.
Bale has not made the trip of course, but Spurs have the firepower to win without him this match, and if the recent transfer rumours are true, perhaps the firepower to win without him this year and beyond.
Spurs should win 2-0 or so, but do not be alarmed with a sluggish draw. The team is playing 2,600 miles from home, and they will surely be able to finish strong in the second leg at the Lane. After all, the 6-2 aggregate win in 1973 began with a 1-1 draw at the Georgian capital.