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Slaven play David to CSKA's Goliath

Published: Tuesday 2 September 2008, 18.35CET
NK Slaven Koprivnica are thrilled to have reached the UEFA Cup first round, but captain Dalibor Poldrugač is wary of rivals PFC CSKA Moskva saying: "Their team are worth nearly as much as our entire league."
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
Slaven play David to CSKA's Goliath
Dalibor Poldrugač and Bojan Vručina celebrate a UEFA Cup victory ©Domenic Aquilina
 
 
Published: Tuesday 2 September 2008, 18.35CET

Slaven play David to CSKA's Goliath

NK Slaven Koprivnica are thrilled to have reached the UEFA Cup first round, but captain Dalibor Poldrugač is wary of rivals PFC CSKA Moskva saying: "Their team are worth nearly as much as our entire league."
NK Slaven Koprivnica are thrilled to have reached the UEFA Cup first round, but captain Dalibor Poldrugač is wary of rivals PFC CSKA Moskva saying: "Their team are worth nearly as much as our entire league."

Aris triumph
The Croatian side set a new benchmark in their brief European career by beating Aris Thessaloniki FC 2-1 on aggregate to reach the first round proper for the first time. Forward Bojan Vručina scored twice in the decisive 2-0 home win on 28 August, and said: "There is no happier man than me. We showed how we can play. With our fans behind us, we did a great job." No one is denying that, but it may take something more for them to make the group stage, after the draw paired them with 2004/05 UEFA Cup winners CSKA. Midfielder Poldrugač, 33, has seen enough in his time to know exactly how tough the tie will be. "They have more class than us," he said. "Their team are worth nearly as much as our entire league."

Possible switch
Hosting a big club on 18 September has already forced Slaven – known more commonly as Slaven Belupo, after the chemical firm that sponsors them – to face up to some structural problems. Their Gradski Stadium has a capacity of 3,000, and there is already talk of moving the first leg to the home of HNK Hajduk Split, some 516km away. This may be the last time Slaven find themselves having to make such a decision, however. The board have suggested spending some of their UEFA Cup windfall on increasing the Gradski's capacity to 7,000 – a major step given Koprivnica has only 31,000 inhabitants, but guaranteeing a fitting home for a club with a history stretching back to 1907.

Petković hopeful
In every sense, the club are looking forward now. They recently signed 27-year-old former Croatia midfielder Nikola Šafarić from HNK Rijeka, and 55-year-old coach Mile Petković is optimistic about the future. "CSKA will have our respect. They have many quality players, but we are hoping we can get a good result at home so we can travel to Moscow with hope," he said.
Last updated: 02/09/08 19.47CET

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