Slovan Bratislava will be hoping that their third group campaign proves more memorable than the first two as they open against Beşiktaş.
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Surprise conquerors of Greek double winners PAOK in the play-offs, Slovan Bratislava will be hoping that their third UEFA Europa League group stage campaign proves more memorable than the first two as they open with a home game against Turkish heavyweights Beşiktaş.
• The clubs have never met in UEFA competition.
• Slovan's experience of Turkish opposition is limited to two matches – a 2-1 home win and a 1-4 away defeat in a 1996/97 UEFA Cup qualifying tie against Trabzonspor.
• Beşiktaş have a similar record against Slovakian opposition, with two home wins and two away defeats – against MFK Košice and Spartak Trnava in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup during the 1990s.
• Slovan's ninth Slovakian league title since independence – and 21st national championship in all – was won at a canter in 2018/19, their final margin of victory amounting to 17 points. Their European campaign ended in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League 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 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.
• Defeated in their last nine UEFA Europa League group stage games, since a 0-0 draw at home to Paris Saint-Germain on matchday three of the 2011/12 campaign, Slovan have, however, lost just one of 13 home European qualifying matches (W9 D3) since the 2014/15 group stage.
• Third in the 2018/19 Turkish Süper Lig, Beşiktaş's reward was direct access to the UEFA Europa League group stage; they also participated last season, failing to reach the round of 32.
• This is the Istanbul club's sixth participation in the UEFA Europa League group stage, from which they have qualified three times but come up short on each of the last two occasions. Their best season in the competition came in 2016/17 when, after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group, they went on to reach the quarter-finals, where they succumbed on penalties to Lyon.
• Beşiktaş have won half of their 30 matches in the UEFA Europa League group stage (D8 L7). In Istanbul their record is W9 D3 L3, with two of those defeats having occurred in successive home games last season – 2-4 to Genk on matchday three and, decisively, 0-1 to Malmö on matchday six.
Links and trivia
• Slovan's Bulgarian skipper Vasil Bozhikov joined from Turkish club Kasımpaşa in 2017.
• Slovan's run of nine successive defeats in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, is a competition record.
• Slovan's qualification means that Slovakia has a representative in successive UEFA Europa League group stages for the first time – following Spartak Trnava's involvement in 2018/19.
• 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 Artmedia Petržalka.
• Appointed by Beşiktaş on a three-year contract in May 2019 to replace Şenol Güneş, who had left to take charge of the Turkish national side, Abdullah Avcı moved across the city having just led İstanbul Başakşehir to a runners-up spot in the Süper Lig. That ended the second of his two five-year spells with the club, which was preceded by an unsuccessful two-year sojourn in charge of the Turkish national side. He had previously led the country to victory in the 2005 UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Italy.