Duruji Kvareli – 2027 Open Thread
The media were clearly not impressed with our 3rd place finish last year, and are predicting we’ll finish 6th this year.
As previously noted, we have only 3 players joining the squad: Luis Lorente, a goalkeeper and Spanish-Georgian dual national who came through Gagra’s academy before moving to Saburtalo; Mamuka Chachua, a centerback who arrives from Tskhinvali; and Levan “Goose” Akhobadze, aka the “Georgian Gareth Bale,” who promotes from our youth academy after terrorizing the U19/21 leagues last year.
While we conceded the fewest goals in the Erovnuli Liga last year, we were in dire need of improvement in goal and at centerback. Lorente and Chachua will step into the 1st XI immediately.
I’m not convinced that Goose can make the step up to this level. But after the truly absurd year he had in 2026, it’s clear that he’s too good (too fast?) for the U19s/21s. Let’s see how he does in our 2nd XI, and coming off the bench.
136 season tickets sold this year, an increase of 20 from 2026. Ticket prices were not raised as much this year, though, at $13 per match (up from $11) or $84.93 for a season ticket (up from $77.21).
We were absolutely dominant in our pre-season friendlies, facing a brutal first match in the Erovnuli Liga — away to defending champions, Lokomotivi Tbilisi, the best team in the league. They smashed us, 3-nil. It was painful. A lesson in just how far we have to go, even if we’ve been solid ever since.
Goose grabbed his first senior goal, coming off the bench against Saburtalo. Off a through ball, naturally. (He had one chalked off 10 minutes earlier for offsides.)
My scouts may not be entirely useless. They identified Patryk Jankowski playing for Poland’s U20s. He was without a senior club, and more than happy to sign a 2-year, $275 per week contract with a one-year option.
Bottom line, he looks the business. He will likely start ahead of Gela “Gelagoal” Jishkariani for the roaming playmaker position, as he looks like he will be a natural fit for the role, especially as he develops.
I’m usually not one for sentiment. That being said, I feel a little bad for Gelagoal, who was pushed out of the shadow striker role a few years ago, dropping back to be a mezzala…before being pushed out of the mezzala roles, and convereted into a roaming playmaker…and now, this. He has a role to play still, only it is in the 2nd XI.
I’m not one to complain about a 10-match unbeaten streak, but… I’m not sure how to complete that sentence.
Because I am frustrated. We added two new players to our defensive unit in order to not make such silly mistakes. I’m hopeful that once Lorente and Chachua are fully integrated, things will tighten up a little bit.
As things sit, we’re only 4 points off Lokomotivi Tbilisi at the top of the table. We’re improving, slowly by slowly. We need a strong month of May, though, because once the summer comes we’ll have additional matches to play with the Davit Kipiani Cup and Europa Conference League qualifying.
Our unbeaten run continues, although Lokomotivi Tbilisi are a machine right now. Squad rotation as we hit the summer will be critical.
May 2027 – European Review.
Eeeew. Just…no. No, thank you.
Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?
The good news? Ok. The Erovnuli Liga rises 5 places, to sit 78th in the competition reputation table.
The bad news? Our youth intake preview is atrocious. I’m not all that surprised given our facilities and staff, but… Ouch.
Our European journey is about to commence, though, with a 1st Round tie against Montenegrin side, Buducnost.
(As an aside, I have no idea why the Davit Kipiani Cup no longer appears in our competitions overview.)
The first European night in Duruji Kvareli’s history could not be played at the Tsentraluri, as we have no seating. Instead, loyal supporters had to travel more than 2 hours, to Rustavi’s Poladi which played host to our Montenegrin opponents. The 477 supporters who made the trip were rewarded with a heavy 5-nil win.
That allow me to keep our 1st XI (minus the injured Jankowski) in for an important trip to Saburtalo in the Erovnuli Liga, with the 2nd XI slotted to play the return leg in Podgorica.
We gifted our hosts 2 late goals (this is why you aren’t getting a new contract, Lasha), but otherwise the 2nd XI weathered the storm admirably. We lose 2-1, but advance 6-2 on aggregate. Our reward? A massive $88k in prize money (keep in mind our turnover last year was only $685k, total) and a trip to Latvia, to will face Riga FC in the Second Knockout Round.
16 brave souls traveled to Riga, to witness our utter dismantling of the home side. A lopsided 2-nil win does not do us justice, but it certainly makes the trip home go quickly.
The 2nd XI manage a win over Dila Gori at home, meaning we narrow the gap at the top of the table to 2 points after Lokomotivi drop points against Dinamo Tbilisi.
Passage is not assured through to the 3rd qualfying round, so the 1st XI will face Riga at “home” in Rustavi. Again, the 4-2 scoreline flattered our opponents after we gifted them 2 goals. But no matter. We’re through.
A big month ahead.
As I look through the Georgia-based players whose contracts are expiring in December, I’ve realized a cold, hard truth. While we’ve been able to find tremendous bargains in the market over the last few years… There’s a ceiling. There are a few players I’m interested in, but none of them are better than the players we already have. And while some appear to have the potential to match them, I can’t see any who I can say — with any measure of certainty — will be in the 1st XI in three years’ time.
I guess it isn’t all that surprising. There should be a rough “ceiling” to the level of players we can find in the free transfer market. It simply underscores the importance of becoming self-sufficient, financially. The most direct path to financial independence? Europe.
We host Tobol at the Mikheil Meskhi in Tbilisi, more than 2 hours from Kvareli. We continue our habit of gifting goals to our opposition, and fail to put the tie to bed, having hit the woodwork four times, with one goal called back. Still, we win 2-1, and will head to Kazakhstan with reason to be optimistic. A record crowd (exceeding the current capacity of the standing-room only Kvareli Fortress) and gate, but we want more.
90 minutes in Portugal. We played brilliant and — for once, on this European journey — we didn’t gift our opponents any goals. We walk away with a hard-fought, massive 3-2 win.
A solid draw, as we’ll face Betis, KR and ****aricki.
We also receive a massive windfall for reaching the Group Stage: $3.23 million. We immediately spend it on the expansion of our scouting network (to include all of Europe), improved junior coaching and expanded youth recruitment.
Domestically, with 10 matches to play it looks like a top-3 finish is secured. It’s also looks like two-way title race, but Lokomotivi is also in the Conference League Group Stage, so we both have a heavy fixture calendar on the books. Saburtalo could sneak in if we both start to struggle.
The 2nd XI do us proud in Spain, even if the scoreline was incredibly flattering. We’ll take a 1-nil loss in a match where we barely got out of our own end.
That being said, my squad rotation gambit fell to pieces when the 1st XI (minus an injured Maghradze) lost 2-1 to ****aricki in Tbilisi on Matchday 2.
A tough month, although Lokomotivi is also dropping points in the Erovnuli Liga.
Our youth intake also arrived to great disappointment, as expected. The best players are Konstantine Lobzhanidze and Lado Kobiashvili, both of whom have a long way to go.
A big trip to Reykjavik sees our first win in the Group Stage, a 4-1 thrashing that looks far better than it was. We were lucky to reach halftime level, but were magnificent in the 2nd half.
Our Erovnuli Liga form continued to be less than ideal, but we claimed our first trophy of the season at the end of the month, with a 4-0 annihilation of Saburtalo in the Davit Kipiani Cup final.
As we hit the final run of the season, we are atop the table, 2 points clear of Lokomotivi. But they have a game in hand.
All to play for, lads.
While we wait for our new youth and training facilities, the Board agrees to add data facilities for the first time and also appear to be renting better youth facilities, now. Progress, slowly by slowly.
A nervy, hard-fought match against KR on Matchday 4 in the Europa Conference League. It speaks volumes to me that in a 2-nil win, our keeper was named Man of the Match. I’ll take it.
Matchday 5? Best forgotten, as Vincent Kompany’s Betis spank us 3-1 in front of a record crowd of 3,001 in Tbilisi. The bandwagon is careening down the road, folks.
We have no time to lick our wounds, though, as the final weekend of the 2027 Erovnuli Liga looms. We’re away to Dinamo Tbilisi, with a 2-point lead over Lokomotivi Tbilisi after they drew against Dila Gori last weekend. Will Dinamo stick the dagger in, or do their neighbors a favor? Lokomotivi host Dinamo Batumi, a side fighting to avoid relegation, but a match Lokomotivi should win.
We need a win. Lokomotivi hold the tiebreaker (results between teams), thanks to their 3-nil win in the first match of the campaign. It is our only loss in domestic competition in 2027. They’re the only side we haven’t beaten in our 2 years in the Erovnuli Liga — 8 matches, 3 losses, 5 draws.
We cannot drag ourselves across the finish line. We lose our 2nd domestic match of the year, 2-1, while Lokomotivi find a 71st minute winner.
We have only one outlet for our frustration — the final match of the Europa Conference League Group Stage, away to ****aricki, in Belgrade, who sit atop the Group. We have a slight chance of progressing, but only if we win and Betis lose at the Villamarin.
We lose, 3-1, bowing to the heavy pressure from our Serbian hosts.
Drink at Belgrade’s famous Itchy Kitty are the last item on our agenda for the season.
Edit: I neglected to point out that Lokomotivi advanced to the knockout rounds of the Europa Conference League. I’m not upset, as I will accept whatever help I can get in improving the Erovnuli Liga’s reputation.
December 2027 – Season Review.
Sadly, we have to bring this brilliant year to a close.
Our first foray into Europe. Our first Davit Kipiani Cup title. Our first genuine title challenge. Of course, me being me, I’m frustrated with how it ended.
Then again, I’d have bitten your hand off at the start of the year if you’d told me we’d: (1) finish 3rd in the Europa Conference League Group Stage, having been in the mix for progression on the final matchday; and (2) take the field on the final weekend of the Erovnuli Liga with a chance to win the domestic double, having only lost 1 match all year.
Our targets for the year were more than met. We challenged on all fronts. We lost 2 domestic matches all year — our first, and our last.
That might even be poetic, if you drink some hard alcohol and squint. While wearing sunglasses at night.
Of course, with all of our prize money from this year, we can afford some killer sunglasses. We’re swimming in cash at the moment, even with the anticipated tax hit. We won’t go nuts, though. We need to be deliberate. Invest in our facilities, bring in the “right” players.
I don’t foresee big changes to the squad for 2028. We need to build a true 2nd XI, which means I’ll be in the market for a centerback and two mezzalas. I’ll be looking for a new right wingback, as well, although we don’t have an immediate need for a new backup. We’ll kick of 2028 with a full-blown squad review.
Goals for 2028: Win the Erovnuli Liga. Reach the Europa Conference League Group Stage, and fight for a spot in the knockout rounds.
God leaned over to the Devil, drew him close and declared, “those who will drink three glasses of chacha may be on my side. After that, they are yours.”
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused, the basic concept behind the Fourth Glass save is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Giorgi Amirani’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Fourth Glass Archive.