Athletic v Partizan background
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Athletic can feel confident as they look to move three points clear at the top of Group L, with their matchday four visitors Partizan yet to avoid defeat in five games in Spain.
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Athletic Club will look to record a second successive victory against FK Partizan and take sole command of top spot in UEFA Europa League Group L.
• Raúl García and Beñat Etxebarria scored on matchday three as Athletic's first encounter with Serbian opponents ended in a 2-0 win in Belgrade – Partizan's first home defeat in six games against Spanish sides (W3 D2 L1).
• Partizan's 12 fixtures against Spanish teams – including their 2-1 loss to Real Madrid CF in the 1966 European Champion Clubs' Cup final in Brussels – have ended W3 D2 L7 (W0 D0 L5 in Spain, where they have yet to score).
• Athletic have won all three of their European home contests this season.
• Partizan won their opening two Group L games – both under Zoran Milinković, who left his role in the run-up to matchday three.
• Losing finalists in 2012, Athletic also made it through to the round of 32 in their first two UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns but fell short in their most recent one, 2012/13.
• Partizan have featured in this group stage six times previously yet have not advanced to the round of 32 since their first appearance in 2004/05.
Trivia and links
• The journey from Belgrade to Bilbao is around 1,850km.
• The game is taking place the day after Athletic Club midfielder Mikel Rico's 31st birthday.
• Partizan's Saša Ilić and Club Brugge KV's Timmy Simons have made the most UEFA club competition appearances of the outfield players in this season's group stage: 119 each.
• Partizan's Gregor Balažic (RCD Espanyol), Stefan Babović (Real Zaragoza) and Ilić (RC Celta de Vigo) have all spent time with Spanish clubs.
• Partizan are one of ten sides in the group stage who qualified for Europe this season as domestic champions, along with KF Skenderbëu (Albania), Qarabağ FK (Azerbaijan), APOEL FC (Cyprus), FC Viktoria Plzeň (Czech Republic), FC Midtjylland (Denmark), KKS Lech Poznań (Poland), Celtic FC (Scotland), Molde FK (Norway) and FC Basel 1893 (Switzerland).
• Ernesto Valverde took charge of Athletic for a second time in 2013. As a player, he had enjoyed the most stable period of his career in Bilbao, and he promptly returned to the club after retiring, including as head coach from 2003–05. Subsequently, he landed three Greek titles with Olympiacos FC and coached Villarreal CF and Valencia FC.
• Milinković moved on from Partizan ahead of matchday three, with the Serbian champions well off the pace in the title race.
• His replacement is Ljubinko Drulović, most recently coach of FYR Macedonia, who was a winger at Partizan towards the end of a playing career in which he won five Portuguese titles with FC Porto. Now 47, the former Yugoslavian international was briefly stand-in coach of Serbia in 2014.