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Athletic seek way past resilient Slovan

ŠK Slovan Bratislava welcome Athletic Club to Slovakia for the first time in Group F and will be buoyed by having won two of their three home games in Europe this season.

Vladimír Weiss combines his national team duties with managing Slovan
Vladimír Weiss combines his national team duties with managing Slovan ©Getty Images

ŠK Slovan Bratislava have yet to win in two home games against Spanish sides, but as Athletic Club visit in UEFA Europa League Group F, a past meeting with FC Barcelona will remind the Slovak contenders that miracles can happen.

Previous meetings
• The teams are crossing paths for the first time in Europe and this is also Athletic's first encounter with Slovak opponents.

• Slovan have contested five games against Spanish clubs, with their record reading W1 D2 L2, and have lost both of their previous home fixtures against Liga opponents.

• Their four most recent meetings with Spanish sides pale into insignificance alongside their first; it seems improbable now, but Slovan beat Barcelona 3-2 to win the 1969 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in Basel. They remain the only team from Slovakia – and the first from eastern Europe – to have won a major UEFA club competition.

Match background
• Slovan have won two of their three home games in Europe so far this season, having not prevailed on home soil in UEFA competition since July 2009.

• Athletic were given a bye to the UEFA Europa League after their play-off against Trabzonspor AŞ was abandoned midway through the tie, following a 0-0 draw in Spain; the Black Sea side were invited to take Fenerbahçe SK's place in the UEFA Champions League after the latter's place in Europe was withdrawn by the Turkish Football Association (TFF).

Team facts
• Slovan's Marian Hád celebrates his 29th birthday the day after the Athletic game. The left-back has been returned to his native Slovakia in January 2010 following a spell abroad in which he represented FC Lokomotiv Moskva, Sporting Clube de Portugal and AC Sparta Praha.

• Slovan are the second Slovak side to qualify for the group stage of this competition; MŠK Žilina made it in 2008/09 and triumphed 2-1 at Aston Villa FC but were eliminated with four points from five games.

• Vladimír Weiss led Slovakia to the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals but now combines his work with the national team with coaching Slovan. He is part of a footballing dynasty: his father, also Vladimír Weiss, played for Czechoslovakia, while his son, another Vladimír Weiss, is a Slovak international. The Slovan coach represented both Czechoslovakia and Slovakia as a midfielder.

• Athletic's new coach is former Argentina defender Marcelo Bielsa, who briefly coached RCD Espanyol in Spain in 1998 before taking charge of the Argentina (1998–2004) and Chile (2007–11) national teams. Athletic's 0-0 draw against Trabzonspor in the play-offs was his first UEFA club competition game.