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Žilina ready for Champions League reckoning

New faces: Two years after announcing themselves with a 2-1 UEFA Cup win at Aston Villa FC, Slovakian champions MŠK Žilina are preparing to take their place at Europe's top table.

Žilina earned their place by downing Sparta Praha in the play-offs
Žilina earned their place by downing Sparta Praha in the play-offs ©Getty Images

MŠK Žilina are one of six clubs making UEFA Champions League group stage debuts this season. As part of a series of features on the competition's new boys, UEFA.com runs the rule over Pavel Hapal's Slovakian titleholders.

Who are they?
Formed: 1908
Nickname: Šošoni (Shoshoni – a Native American tribe)
League titles: 5

Žilina's rise to prominence coincided with the arrival of paper-industry magnate Jozef Antošík who began financing the club in 1995 and became owner in 2003 – a year after they celebrated their first modern Slovakian crown. They sealed back-to-back titles the following season and have won the league five times in the last eight years to match ŠK Slovan Bratislava as the country's most successful side since independence.

One to watch
Momodou Ceesay, 21, forward
Nicknamed Mamu, the Gambian international and Thierry Henry fan was the key figure in Žilina's run to the UEFA Champions League group stage, having joined on loan from Belgian outfit KVC Westerlo in the summer. Still only 21, he struck in the second leg against third qualifying round opponents PFC Litex Lovech, before opening the scoring at AC Sparta Praha in Žilina's play-off opener and burying an acrobatic volley in the return encounter. Those goals proved a quick return on the club's investment, and the tall pacy marksman also registered on his Slovak First League debut at Dukla Banská Bystrica, hitting the winner 24 minutes after emerging as a substitute.

Memorable match
Aston Villa FC 1-2 MŠK Žilina, UEFA Cup Group F, 4 December 2008
Žilina may have failed to reach the round of 32 but they ended their maiden UEFA Cup group stage campaign on a high at Villa Park. Coached at the time by Dušan Radolský, the visitors enjoyed an explosive first 20-minute spell, racing into a 2-0 lead courtesy of Miroslav Leitner and Peter Štyvar. Aston Villa responded through Nathan Delfouneso but were unable to prevent the opposition claiming their first victory in the section.

Greatest player
Róbert Jež
Club captain and a natural leader, Jež may have picked up just four goals last term but he was the outstanding performer in coach Hapal's side and was named player of the year by several media outlets. The 29-year-old midfielder was born in Nitra where he began his career with FC Nitra, and after five years in the Czech Republic with FC Viktoria Plzeň and 1. FK Příbram he signed for Žilina in 2005. The left-footer has subsequently made more than 160 league outings, racking up over 30 goals.

Did you know?
Despite having been the most successful team since the modern Slovakian league started in 1993, Žilina have never reached the Slovakian Cup final.

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