Braga v Slovan Bratislava facts
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
The top two teams in Group K meet in the iconic Estádio Municipal as Braga face Slovakian champions Slovan Bratislava.
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The top two teams in UEFA Europa League Group K meet in the iconic Estádio Municipal as Braga, fresh from an opening away win, play host to Slovakian champions Slovan Bratislava, who were also victorious on matchday one.
• Ricardo Horta's breakaway strike gave Braga all three points at Wolverhampton Wanderers on the same night that Slovan, spurred by two goals from their prolific Slovenian international striker Andraž Šporar, struck twice in added time to claim a famous 4-2 win against Beşiktaş, ending a run of nine straight defeats in the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Braga's only previous official matches against Slovakian opponents came in the first round of the 2008/09 UEFA Cup when they won home (4-0) and away (2-0) against MFK Petržalka.
• Slovan's experience of Portuguese opposition is also limited to just two matches but they have a historical significance as they came in the second round of the 1968/69 European Cup Winners' Cup – a trophy the then Czechoslovakian side went on to win. Defeated 1-0 away by Porto in the first leg, Slovan overturned that deficit in style with a 4-0 victory in Bratislava.
• Braga's 15th European qualification in the last 16 years was achieved with a fourth-placed finish in the 2018/19 Portuguese Liga, a season in which their European ambitions ended early with elimination on away goals by Zorya Luhansk in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.
• Brøndby (4-2 a, 3-1 h) and Spartak Moskva (1-0 h, 2-1 a) were both overcome in this season's qualifying phase to take Braga into the group stage for the fifth time. They have made further progress on three of the previous four occasions, though their best season in the competition – and in Europe overall – came in 2010/11 when they crossed over in mid-campaign from the UEFA Champions League and knocked out, among others, Liverpool and Benfica before losing 1-0 in the Dublin final to domestic rivals Porto.
• Braga are unbeaten in eight European games (W6 D2) and have won all five this season. Their home record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W8 D1 L3 and in the competition proper W13 D3 L5.
• Slovan's ninth Slovakian league title since independence – and 21st national championship in all – was won at a canter in 2018/19, with a final margin of victory of 17 points. Their European campaign ended in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round at the hands of Rapid Wien.
• This term the club from the Slovakian capital lost a penalty shoot-out against Montenegro's Sutjeska in the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, but won both legs of their first two UEFA Europa League qualifying ties against Feronikeli and Dundalk before stunning Greek double winners PAOK on away goals (1-0 h, 2-3 a) to reach the group stage for the third time. Their previous two participations, in 2011/12 and 2014/15, yielded just one point.
• Slovan have lost all six of their previous away fixtures in the UEFA Europa League group stage, scoring just one goal and conceding 18.
Links and trivia
• Braga's Uche Agbo and Slovan's Rabiu Ibrahim are both Nigerian internationals.
• Ibrahim started his career in Portugal with Sporting CP, though he never played for the Lisbon club's first team.
• Although Slovan's run of nine successive defeats in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, ended on matchday one, it remains a competition record.
• A gifted support striker who represented Portugal on 45 occasions, scoring ten goals, and appeared at the UEFA European Championship in 1996 and 2000, Ricardo Sá Pinto spent the majority of his club career at Sporting CP, his two spells at the Lisbon club broken by a three-year stint at Real Sociedad. His first head coach position was back at Sporting, in 2012, but it was short-lived and from there he moved abroad, working in Serbia, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Belgium and latterly Poland with Legia Warszawa before signing a two-year contract with Braga in July 2019.
• The assistant coach in Slovan's runaway 2018/19 Slovakian title triumph, his fourth season in the role, Ján Kozák was promoted to the position of head coach in the summer as a replacement for Martin Ševela and duly succeeded in fulfilling his first assignment by steering the club through to the UEFA Europa League group stage. Capped 25 times by Slovakia, and a participant at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the former midfielder won four Slovakian league titles – one each with Košice and Slovan and the other two with MFK Petržalka.