With the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round concluding on Thursday, UEFA.com meets a Welsh viking and finds Milan Baroš ready for a European comeback.
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Matej Jelič - Žilina hero
Žilina's top league scorer last season, Croatian forward Matej Jelič has been in stirring form in UEFA Europa League qualifying, scoring six of the Slovakian club's nine goals so far. After scoring a treble in the second leg of the first qualifying round success against Glentoran, he came within centimetres of a second successive hat-trick in last week's 2-1 win at Dacia.
"I had a great chance to score a third, but I hit the bar," he said. "Still, I have to be satisfied – we won and hope go further in the Europa League." Žilina coach Adrián Guľa purred: "He was brilliant." A mystery virus, however, has laid much of the Žilina side low since then, forcing them to postpone their league opener against Podbrezová. Hopefully, Jelič and his team-mates will be recovered for Thursday's rematch.
Winners play: Vorksla Poltava
Nicknamed 'The Viking' for his distinctive mohican-and-beard combo, Newtown captain Shane Sutton feels his side have everything to play for as they host København, despite losing 2-0 in the first leg. "We've got something to play for," said the defender, who has had to down tools at his barber shop to pursue European success. "If we get the first goal the crowd will be right behind us and I think there will be eruptions at Latham Park."
Winners play: Jablonec
Baroš set for club competition comeback
Milan Baroš could play his first UEFA club competition game in the best part of five years, the 2005 UEFA Champions League winner hoping to be fit to take on Strømsgodset, with Mladá Boleslav bent on recovering from a 2-1 defeat. The former Liverpool man, 33, joined the club in the summer – along with Under-21 international Jiří Skalák – but missed the first leg as he bids to return to full fitness. "I hope they will be ready at least to come off the bench," said coach Karel Jarolím.
Winners play: Koper or Hajduk Split
Hajduk's first-half hoodoo
Hajduk Split have conceded seven goals in their five matches this season, and every one has been in the first half. That is what coach Damir Burić needs to work on as Koper visit Split having won 3-2 in Slovenia last week. Five of the goals Hajduk have let in have been between the 36th and 41th minute (the moment when Koper got their third). "I have huge faith in a positive result against Koper," Burić said. "We will also probably change the style of play."
Winners play: Mladá Boleslav or Strømsgodset
Lokomotiva at full steam
Despite conceding a last-gasp away goal in their 2-1 win against PAOK last week, Lokomotiva Zagreb coach Ante Čačić has every reason to be optimistic ahead of the trip to Thessaloniki. On Monday his team beat Istra 1961 6-1 to get off the mark in the Croatian league and he said: "I still have to improve a couple of things in our play, but I believe we can be maintain the level of the last two matches and get a good result in Thessaloniki."
Winners play: Spartak Trnava or Linfield
Railwaymen on the right track
Dženis Beganović's late goal gave Željezničar a 1-0 win at Ferencváros last week – an encouraging achievement given the Railwaymen's previous bad experiences against Hungarian opponents. Home results cost the Sarajevo side in both their previous encounters with Hungarian clubs, but they come into the return leg unbeaten in competitive games in nine months. "Our goal is to remain undefeated and of course make it to the third qualifying round," Beganović said. "It won't be easy, but if we play the same way as we did in the first match, we can make it."
Winners play: Standard Liège
Trabzonspor's free-kick maestro
"All I need is for the referee to award us a free-kick – the rest is my job." So says Mehmet Ekici, the 25-year-old having gained quite a reputation as a set-piece specialist since joining Trabzonspor from Werder Bremen in 2014. The only goal in the first leg against Differdange last week was the midfielder's sixth successful free-kick conversion for the club. However, Mehmet is not letting his star-billing as a distance-sniper cloud his team ethic. "Scoring goals directly from free-kicks is not more important than my team getting three points," he noted.
Winners play: Jelgava or Rabotnicki