Slaven play David to CSKA's Goliath

NK Slaven Koprivnica are thrilled to have reached the UEFA Cup first round, but captain Dalibor Poldrugač is wary of rivals PFC CSKA Moskva saying: "Their team are worth nearly as much as our entire league."

Dalibor Poldrugač and Bojan Vručina celebrate a UEFA Cup victory
Dalibor Poldrugač and Bojan Vručina celebrate a UEFA Cup victory ©Domenic Aquilina

Aris triumph
The Croatian side set a new benchmark in their brief European career by beating Aris Thessaloniki FC 2-1 on aggregate to reach the first round proper for the first time. Forward Bojan Vručina scored twice in the decisive 2-0 home win on 28 August, and said: "There is no happier man than me. We showed how we can play. With our fans behind us, we did a great job." No one is denying that, but it may take something more for them to make the group stage, after the draw paired them with 2004/05 UEFA Cup winners CSKA. Midfielder Poldrugač, 33, has seen enough in his time to know exactly how tough the tie will be. "They have more class than us," he said. "Their team are worth nearly as much as our entire league."

Possible switch
Hosting a big club on 18 September has already forced Slaven – known more commonly as Slaven Belupo, after the chemical firm that sponsors them – to face up to some structural problems. Their Gradski Stadium has a capacity of 3,000, and there is already talk of moving the first leg to the home of HNK Hajduk Split, some 516km away. This may be the last time Slaven find themselves having to make such a decision, however. The board have suggested spending some of their UEFA Cup windfall on increasing the Gradski's capacity to 7,000 – a major step given Koprivnica has only 31,000 inhabitants, but guaranteeing a fitting home for a club with a history stretching back to 1907.

Petković hopeful


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