Duruji Kvareli – 2036 Open Thread
December 2035 / January 2036 – Odds & Ends.
At the club holiday party, the Chairman pulls me aside. A glint is in his eye, speaking at a rapid clip, pupils dilated like an amorous panther on the prowl. In time, he makes himself clear.
The news will break in the morning. The politicians have relented.
After blocking expansion of the Tsentraluri for years, he claims they’ve “seen the light.” (My guess? He’s shown them the benefits of cooperation…and the risks associated with continuing to stand in the way of his plan for European domination.)
Planning permission has been granted, far sooner than expected. They will break ground immediately.
In 2 years’ time, the doors will open to our new stadium — already known as “The Goose” to Duruji Kvareli supporters.
The Board also agree to invest further in our youth facilities, following up on the previously-agreed improvements to our training facilities.
In the Europa League draw, we hold our breath in anticipation. There are 4 sides we are hoping to avoid…and do end up avoiding. We will face Shakhtar Donetsk, who finished as runners-up in Europa League Group G, 9 points off Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan.
This will be our first competitive matches against the Ukrainians, our only previous encounter being a 3-nil win in 2030, in a pre-season friendly.
The Erovnuli Liga also announces that each club’s respective share of the television revenue for 2036 will be $11.72M (up from $10.03M in 2035). Again, every club in the league is sitting on a solid bank account, with balances in excess of $10M. The era of semi-professionalism and revolving bankruptcy is over.
(Although I cannot tell if there is a television deal in the Erovnuli Liga 2, each club is now financially secure even if there are a handful of
January 2036 – Transfer Watch.
For the first time in years, we have no signings planned for arrival this window (or in future windows).
While certain players remain available for transfer (as noted in the 2035 squad review), we start the calendar year with the same 25-man squad that we ended the 2035 campaign with. (As a precaution, I ended up offering Makaradze a two-year contract, but ship him off to Levante on loan.)
However…Ivkovic kicks off when reject offers from various clubs, including Leeds (the reigning Champions League winners, whom he apparently has an affection for). At which point, the bidding war begins. In the end, he leaves for Yorkshire for a club record $19M (plus fees and a 50 percent next-sale clause). It is the highest fee paid to a Georgian club, to date.
Goga Tabukashvili (a 2033 youth academy graduate) will promote from the U21s, joining the 2nd XI. While I have my doubts about Tabukashvili, he did have a monster year on loan to Saburtalo in 2035, scoring 27 goals in Erovnuli Liga 29 matches. He’s earned this chance. But if he stumbles, we will be looking for a young player to take the spot.
February 2035 – Europa League, First Knockout Round.
As we commence the campaign proper, we have a full 25-man squad which is probably more than we strictly need, but is what it is.
We’ve run through our pre-season fixtures like a hot knife through butter, and are the heavy favorites to win a 10th-straight Erovnuli Liga title. But first, we must navigate the Europa League tie with Shakhtar and the Super Cup.
We come out of the gates with fire in our belly in the first leg against the Ukrainians, with Ntombela etching his name onto the scoresheet within less than a minute, after an incisive through ball from Kessie, deputizing for Oniani. We continue to pressure, and Hjaltason doubles our lead in the 16th, off a long throw-in from Mickovski over the heads of the Shakhtar back lie.
Which is where it ends. 5-nil on the night. Barring an epic collapse, we are through to the next round.
Back in Donetsk at the Donbas-Arena, a first-half double from Ntombela sealed our passage on a night when our dominance was unquestionable. Ntombela completed his hat trick in the 68th, on the way to a 4-nil rout (9-nil, agg).
Our nerves are shot for the draw. Our goal is to reach the quarterfinals of a European competition for the first time, and there are certainly teams we will need to avoid to make that happen. We pop out of the hat first, and will face Thomas Delaney’s Real Betis, who sit 5th in La Liga.
It is neither the best nor the worst we could have hoped for. A “neutral” draw. We’ll take it.
We close the month with news that the club have sold 476 season tickets, up from 466 last year. Ticket prices continue to rise marginally, at an average of $28.29 per match, and $191 for the entire season.
March 2036 – Europa League, Second Knockout Round (1st Leg).
We welcome Betis to Tbilisi with a measure of confidence, despite being massive underdogs on paper. Hristov is suspended; Cipot will cover as our ball-winning midfielder in his absence.
The Spaniards are the better side in the opening stages, but we take the lead in the 16th after Oniani gets to the byline and finds Libicki in space 7 yards from goal. He heads home, and the supporters start to fel that most dangerous of emotions. Hope.
We claim our 2nd in the 28th minute, when Betis fail to clear a corner. Stefansson curls the ball to a streaking Hjaltason who is alone at the back post, volleying home past the helpless keeper. 2-nil.
But Betis are not so easily beaten. They pull one back in the 37th, silencing our supporters’ early celebrations. At the half, Betis are the better side on paper. But where it counts, we still lead.
In the 59th minute, Oniani again gets to the byline to send in a driven, low cutback which causes fits for the Spanish defense. The loose ball eventually falls to Hjaltason who smashes it home, the keeper’s view blocked by a mass of bodies. 3-1, an hour gone.
The match settles into a disquieting rhythm — Betis press and probe, looking good value for a goal, while we look to hit them on the counter. But neither side can find the back of the net. In the 93rd minute, Rak nearly buries a chance on a corner, but the keeper manages to tip it wide. From the ensuing corner, Michael Kyei rises above the crowd at the near popst like urCristiano on a hoverboard, defying the laws of physics, to flick a delicate header into the back post to make it 4-1.
The final whistle blows. We will take a 4-1 lead to Andalucia, one foot in the quarterfinals.
March 2036 – Europa League, Second Knockout Round (2nd Leg).
As much as we’ve put ourselves into a strong position, I will not rest easy until this tie is put to bed.
And while caution may be the buzzword of the day, I have found that naked aggression (literally and/or figuratively) is the only way to deal with a side that looks to pin you back in your end.
For all of our swagger prior to kickoff, Betis are in it to win. They strike in the 13th and then again in the 25th. But we do not have a glass jaw. We punch right back, through Freidmeigas less than 40 seconds later to make it 2-1 on the night, negating Betis’ away-goals advantage.
Hjaltason draws us level on the night in the 42nd, leading to an onslaught of Spanish attacks, wave after wave. Unrelenting. But hold firm. 2-2 on the night, 6-3 on aggregate.
We draw Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool, who eliminated Austria Wien 12-1 (agg).
April 2036 – Europa League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg).
The trip to Merseyside starts predictably, as VAR awards our hosts a penalty in the first minute of play. The traveling support are united, once again, in song.
1-nil to the Scousers. The UEFA mafia are at it again.
We will not relent, though. We strike back immediately, as Freidgeimas plays Hjaltason through in the 4th minute, and the Icelandic international dinks it over the onrushing keeper. 1-1. All to play for.
We start the second half strong, and are rewarded in the 52nd minute when Stefansson hammers home a cross from Freidmeigas, after Liverpool fail to clear on a corner. 2-2. Stefansson rushes to the Kop, shouting his defiance in their face. The essence of our approach on this epic night.
Before our hosts can catch their breath, we strike again. Oniani hitting a diagonal, curling ball which finds Hjaltason in stride. 3-2 in the 55th minute.
Having spit in the lion’s face, Liverpool awaken with a vengeance. We weather the immediate storm, but our hosts are nothing if not relentless. They draw level in the 70th, and continue to push for a winner while we look dangerous on the counter.
We bend, but we do not break. For the second time in 2 years, we claim a 3-3 draw at Anfield.
We have a massive task ahead of us, back in Tbilisi. But with 90 minutes to play, anything is possible.
April 2036 – Europa League, Quarterfinals (2nd Leg).
The 2nd leg in Tbilisi will be my 700th match in charge of Duruji Kvareli. In my first campaign, our April fixtures were a muddle in the Georigan 5th tier.
We start with hope in our hearts…and in the 21st minute we strike. Ntombela finding Hristov breaking past the defensive line, and firing home.
Despite having the away-goals advantage, we refuse to sit back. That would be suicidal against a side of the caliber of Liverpool. So, we charge on, into the cannon’s mouth.
Oniani cuts inside in the 39th, clipping the ball to Liwicki at the back post…he hammers it home. 2-nil on the night. The sparse home supporters have begun to sing derisively at Gerrard, asking if he’d like a transfer to Chelsea.
At the half, we remain 2 goals clear. Liverpool need 3 goals in the next 45 minutes. But they cannot find a way through our defense, and remain exposed at the back. We call for our final substitution in the 74th minute, 16 minutes from glory.
In the 77th minute, we are in wonderland. Oniani finds Cipot hitting the seam, and Cipot smashes it into the top bins from 18 yards. 3-nil on the night. The Scousers now need 3 goals to force extra time.
But the pattern has been set. Liverpool’s attacks are snuffed out, followed by an aggressive counterattack that threatens to deepen the humiliation. At the final whistle, the half-full Mikheil Meshki erupts in song.
Liverpool are eliminated. Curb-stomped 3-nil on the night. An epic, historic moment.
We will face Michael Laudrup’s Villarreal in the semifinals, after they eliminated Jesse Marsch’s Sheffield United, 7-5 on aggregate. Laudrup’s men sit 4th in La Liga. It’s a big ask. But we’ve already done the impossible.
The 2nd XI have been dominant, domestically. We will continue to rely on them to hold down the fort.
All to play for, lads.
May 2036 – Europa League, Semifinals (1st Leg).
May in Tbilisi. A European semifinal, hosted more than 2 hours from Kvareli. It is both a disgrace and an honor. In equal measure.
Villarreal are a strong team on paper, but after eliminating Betis and Liverpool, we know that the glitz and glamour of the La Liga side is nothing but a facade, punctured if we can bloody their nose.
Undettered, the Spanish push forward in search of an equalizer. But, again, we strike on the counter almost immediately. Ntombela picking up the ball at midfield and driving with purpose, a 3v2. He lays it wide for Libicki, who drives and then dishes it back to Ntombela who has only the keeper to beat from 9 yards. He buries it. 2-nil.
Less than a minute later, the bit firmly gripped between our teeth, Libicki has the ball in the back of the net…only for VAR to chalk it off. Shaw and Song are beside themselves, a righteous fury directed at the UEFA mafia whom they believe to be conspiring against us. I’ve indulged them to-date, but their mutterings have grown dark. (Much darker than before, at least.)
After a period of sustained pressure, we win a corner in the 36th minute. Freidmeigas swings it in, and Hristov rises at the near post to hammer it home. We sit 3-nil up, in a European semifinal. The UEFA mafia won’t know what to do now…or…will they?!
I’ve been listening to Shaw and Song too much. Instead of unrestrained joy in the moment, the blood is draining rapidly from their faces as they mutter about the lengths “those Nyon ****s” will go, to stop us.
In the 51st minute, dark glances are exchanged between the two of them as Villarreal pull one back, while Nikolaou looks for the offside flag. But it stays down, and VAR is not having a look.
In the 67th minute, Libicki is taken down in the box. The whistle blows, but VAR is having a look. Shaw hands me a shiv, taking off his jacket, while Song ties his dreadlocks back after rolling up his sleeves. But, suddenly, a miracle. VAR awards the penalty. Insurrection aborted. Hjaltason steps forward, to claim his hat trick…but Kocak saves it. Shaw and Song exchange a dark look, as Shaw gestures for the return of the shiv, which I willingly hand over without thinking…only to realize, moments later, that my fingerprints are all over it.
We continue to lay siege to the Villarreal goal, but Kocak is a man possessed. If it weren’t for him, we would have found 6 or 7 tonight. If not more. He was immense, and rightly earns Player of the Match.
We are 90 minutes from a European final.
May 2036 – Europa League, Semifinal (2nd Leg).
90 minutes from the Promised Land…by which, I mean the Nuevo Mestalla, up the road from here. It’s a figure of speech.
Before kickoff, Song pulls me aside and lifts his coat to show me a wide array of shivs. He and Shaw have been busy since our arrival, it seems.
They need not have worried. In the 6th minute, a long throw from Mickovski is flicked on, reaching Freidmeigas at the back post, to fire home. 1-nil on the night, negating the Spaniards’ away goal advantage, and laying down a marker for the night.
2 minutes later, Freidmeigas takes the match by the scruff of the neck, driving past multiple Villarreal players before firing into the bottom corner past a helpless Kocak. 2-nil, in the 8th minute. Even Shaw and Song appear to be letting their guard down…surely, we cannot find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Hristov makes it 3-nil in the 31st minute. It’s all over. We are rampant. Irrepressible. Even Shaw and Song wave it off when Villarreal snatch one in the 42nd minute. A textbook counterattack, as we had launched forward in search of a fourth. Hubris, perhaps. But even Shaw and Song are laughing. It’s all over, and there’s nothing those UEFA bastards can do about it, yeah?
But looks of concern are shared amidst nervous laughter, when they find another in the 52nd minute.
Hjaltason’s goal in the 56th — a straightforward tap-in from close range — releases the tension. Even the Villarreal supporters know it — they start leaving in droves, long before the final whistle blows.
A 4-2 win, to complete a comprehensive 8-3 rout on aggregate.
We will return to Spain in 3 weeks’ time to face Roger Schmidt’s Leicester City, who eliminated Real Sporting 5-2 (agg). The Foxes sit 9th in the Premier League…by no means an easy feat. But we will have 90 minutes to prove our worth.
May 2036 – Europa League, Final.
But for now, I can hear the refrain of the Europa League anthem. It’s time. Kickoff is imminent. Follow along in our Live Blog: 2035/36 Europa League Final.
If you don’t wish to bask in the moment like a kitten in a sunbeam, the result of the Final can be found here:
June 2036 – European Review.
The Europa League may be thoroughly covered above…
…but, we still need to take a quick look around Europe.
In the Champions League, Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich beat Thomas Tuchel’s Barcelona, 1-nil, to clam their 2nd title in 3 years.
In the Europa Conference League, Manuel Akanji’s Sassuolo beat Ruben Baraja’s Valencia, 1-nil (aet), the second year in a row that Baraja’s men have lost the ECL final in extra time.
In the active leagues, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid defended their La Liga title; Sami Khedira’s Chelsea won their first title since 2025/26, as Pochettino’s Manchester United lost away to Leicester on Matchday 38; Patrick Vieira’s PS-****ing-G won their 4th straight Ligue 1 title; Andriy Shevchenko’s AC Milan claimed a hard-fought Serie A title, their first in 5 years; and, Hansi Flick’s Bayern did Bayern things again.
While we receive an additional $7.42 million and $7.82 million from the UEFA mafia (the latter being another sizeable year-on-year increase in coefficient ranking pool money), the coefficient gains are really what I’m focused on.
And, suffice to say, we will no longer be anyone’s surprise. (Ok, maybe Gary Neville won’t see us coming…)
The Erovnuli Liga rises to 27th in the UEFA competitions rankings, up 5 spots from last year, overtaking the Greek and Romanian top tiers, among others. Duruji Kvareli rise to 20th in the club coefficients table, up another 5 spots.
More importantly, Georgia climb to 12th in the nation club coefficients table, sitting just behind Belgium.
Meaning Georgia will send 5 teams into Europe, beginning next year: 2 to the Champions League; 1 to the Europa League; and, 2 to the Europa Conference League.
A quiet month follows the intense end to the 2035/36 European campaign.
Our annual youth intake preview looks promising, with the possibility of 4 players having the potential to make an impact: 1 goalkeeper, 2 defensive midfielders, and 1 attacking midfielder:
Our European campaign will kick off in August with a one-off Super Cup match against Bayern Munich. While Hansi Flick has retired, we fully expect ze Germans to be in their usual, relentless form.
After an epic, historic summer, we welcome a bit of quiet. Not having to qualify for the Champions League Group Stage has meant both the absence of fixture congestion and an ability to rotate the squad for certain matches, ensuring that our legs are fresh for the run-in.
Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich prove to be on another level in the UEFA Super Cup, but we still held on for a 2-1 loss. Respectable. Even if they played us off the pitch.
I awaited the Champions League draw with feverish anticipation…although that may have just been Shaw messing with the thermostat again. He thinks he can trick the boiler by turning it up high, then turning it off…only, he forgets to turn it off. And doesn’t understand things like appliances, and how they work (or don’t work, as the case may be).
As a number 1 seed, we’re drawn into Group G — a good omen, Shaw thinks. “G is for Georgia, Boss. It’s simple maths.” We will face Erol Bulut’s Hoffenheim, Merih Demiral’s Lyon, and Shakhtar.
There’s no such thing as an “easy” Group. But this may be as good as it gets. Ze Germans are the “weakest” 2nd seed, and we have an established dominance over Shakhtar.
Our first match is away to Lyon. A chance to stamp our authority on the Group, and stake our claim on a spot in the knockout rounds.[In posting this update last night, I neglected to mention that Makaradze, Cipot and Utsmuts all left the club in July, leaving us with a 22-man squad as we head into the business end of the campaign.]
We return to continental competition with a match against Merih Demiral’s Lyon in Tbilisi, claiming a comfortable 2-nil win. The goals came late and we made hard work of it. But 3 points against a talented French side are nothing to laugh at.
The month concluded with Shakhtar’s visit to Tbilisi. Consistent with our prior form against the Ukrainians, we hit them for 4 first-half goals and casually see out the 2nd half to claim all 3 points.
The other big news of the month was the formal arrival of our youth intake, which may be the best one we’ve had since my arrival nearly 15 years ago.
Soso Bokashvili, Guga Iashvili and Irakli Arveladze are potential first-team players. Bokashvili will train as a ball-winning midfielder; Arveladze will train as a centerback. Levan Iaganashvili and Giorgi Bagalishvili are the only other players worth mentioning; neither seems to have the potential to reach the first team, even if Giorgi looks intriguing.
Away to Hoffenheim on Matchday 3, we have an opportunity to show ze Germans we mean business.
To say that our 2-nil loss was a disappointment would be an understatement.
We claim the league title on October 25th, with a 4-nil win over Torpedo Kutaisi. My attention is focused on the arrival of ze Germans for Matchday 4, though.
I’ve only got one thing on my mind as we kick off the final 5-6 weeks of the campaign.
Ze Germans arrive in Tbilisi with a chance to claim top spot in the Group. We need a win to deny them.
The only problem being that Erol Bulut’s Hoffenheim have been a fixture in the Bundesliga top 4 for the past decade, wining the 2032/33 Europa League and reaching the Champions League knockout stage 6 times (including 1 quarterfinal appearance). In other words, they’re also trying to break the glass ceiling.
Hoffenheim strike first, but unlike the match in Germanlandia, we fight back Hjaltason draws us level in the 28th minute, before Freidgeimas gives us the lead in the 36th. It’s a hard-fought match, but we keep our nerve to see it out. A 2-1 win draws us level on points, but Hoffenheim have the tie-breaker.
Now, we have to go to France and get a result, hoping that Shakhtar can steal a point away to ze Germans… The match at a packed Groupama rests balanced on edge of a knife, until a quickfire double late in the first half gives us the advantage. Lyon will have to chase the match…and they’re reduced to 10 men in the 52nd minute, after Shoretire went in two-footed on Hjaltason.
Libicki and Hjaltason add to the French woes, as we run away with it in the only statistic that counts — how many times we put the ball into the ol’ onion bag. A decisive 4-nil win puts us into the knockout rounds.
However, far from doing us a favor, Shakhtar bend over for ze Germans, who have the tiebreakers heading into the Matchday 6. We must rely on Lyon finally showing up.
The final home match of the year is against Lokomotivi. The 2nd XI are tasked with a match that — for all practical purposes — is irrelevant They claim a 3-nil win, concluding an unbeaten campaign at the Tsentraluri in all competitions — 31 matches, 31 wins; 159 goals for, 8 conceded.
We’ve only suffered 2 losses in all competitions — to Bayern in the Super Cup, in Estonia; away to Hoffenheim in the Champions League Group Stage, meaning we’ve also completed the first “perfect” campaign in Erovnuli Liga history. (Unfortunately, our 174 Erovnuli Liga goals scored falls just short of equaling our record 180, set in 2035. Our 13 goals against is also just shy of our record 12, set in 2034.)
While we have one year remaining at the Tsentraluri (barring any construction delays in completing The Goose, which is scheduled for a January 2038 opening), it was important to me to complete an unbeaten season in our original home, the Kvareli Fortress — the stadium which brought us here in the first place.
Of course, we have 2 matches left — away to Dinamo Tbilisi, and away to Shakhtar. We need to conclude the campaign on a good note.
December 2036 – Season Review.
Away to Shakhtar, we handed the reins back to the 1st XI, with the exception of the injured Hristov and Oniani. We’re in complete control when Kyei finally puts us on the board in the 19th minute. Kyei heads home a Freidgeimas corner minutes later, followed by a breakaway goal from Libicki, and another header from Kyei to seal his hat trick. The match is over by the half-hour mark.
The only question now is, can the French steal a point off ze Germans? An hour gone, and the score is level in Lyon, with ze Germans reduced to 10 men. Surely, this is a good omen…
Another good omen, as I had introduced Tabukashvili shortly after the half so that he could hunt his 20th goal of the campaign. We have six players who’ve broken that mark, he would be lucky number seven…and in the 69th minute, he finds it, smashing home from close distance to make it 8-nil on the night, a triumphant conclusion to the campaign. A promise of glory yet to come. Yet, still we await further word from France…
Moments before Libicki hits our 9th of the night, the news spreads. Lyon have scored. It’s 3-2 at the Groupama. 10-man Hoffenheim need two goals, or else we win the Group.
We are riding high. We will not be stopped, even after Libicki’s 75th minute penalty is saved and Dahlen is forced off in the 79th minute with a possible injury, reducing us to 10 men. We claim a 12-nil win — the biggest win in club history — as Hoffenheim crash in Lyon to hand us the Group title, and seeding for the knockout rounds.
With each passing day, we are closer to our goal of competing for the Champions League title. I don’t think we are as far off as it feels sometimes. With a bit of luck, we can make a run. Nevertheless, we will run the rule over the squad ahead of the 2037 campaign, to determine what reinforcements are needed, and where we can improve.
Goals for 2037: Make a run in the 2036/37 Champions League knockout rounds. Qualify for the 2037/38 Champions League knockout rounds. Add further quality and depth to the squad.
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 Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave Archive.