Wolverhampton Wanderers welcome Slovan Bratislava to Molineux with their sights set on a third straight win in Group K.
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Wolverhampton Wanderers welcome Slovan Bratislava to Molineux with their sights set on a third straight win in Group K following a 2-1 comeback success on Matchday 3 in the Slovakian capital, where second-half strikes from Romain Saïss and Raúl Jiménez, a penalty, cancelled out Andraž Šporar's 11th-minute opener. Wolves sit second in the standings on six points, one behind leaders Braga and two above Slovan.
• The English side were beaten 1-0 at home by Braga on their group stage debut, but recovered well on their travels, striking a late winner to beat Beşiktaş in Istanbul before triumphing again in Bratislava. The Slovakian champions scored twice in added time to beat Beşiktaş 4-2 at home on Matchday 1 before coming from behind twice to snatch a 2-2 draw at Braga.
• While Wolves had never faced a Slovakian club in UEFA competition prior to Matchday 3, that was Slovan's 11th fixture against English opponents. All of their five previous trips to England have resulted in defeat, with 18 goals conceded and just three scored, though this is their first visit to the country for 22 years.
• In their first season after promotion to the Premier League, Wolves finished seventh in 2018/19 to qualify for European competition for the first time since they lost in the 1980/81 UEFA Cup first round to PSV Eindhoven.
• The West Midlanders' best European experience by some distance came in the inaugural UEFA Cup of 1971/72, when they went all the way to the final before losing 3-2 on aggregate to English rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
• Wolves won all six of their qualifying matches this season, knocking out Crusaders (2-0 h, 4-1 a), Pyunik (4-0 a, 4-0 h) and, in the play-offs, Torino (3-2 a, 2-1 h), but the Matchday 1 defeat by Braga ended a seven-match European winning streak at Molineux that had lasted since they were beaten 2-1 by Spurs in the first leg of that 1972 UEFA Cup final.
• 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 victory margin of 17 points. Their European campaign, however, 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 had lost all six of their away fixtures in the UEFA Europa League group stage, scoring just one goal and conceding 18, until they stopped the rot with that 2-2 draw at Braga on Matchday 2.
Links and trivia
• Slovan's Rabiu Ibrahim came through the youth ranks of Sporting CP when Wolves midfielder João Moutinho was an established first-teamer with the Lisbon club.
• Slovan boss Ján Kozák had a brief experience as a player in England with Wolves' local rivals West Bromwich Albion in 2006.
• Although a run of nine successive defeats in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, ended for Slovan on Matchday 1, it remains a competition record.
• With four goals, Šporar is the leading scorer in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Wolves are one of six UEFA Europa League group stage debutants this season; the others are Espanyol, Ferencváros, Olexandriya and two Austrian clubs, LASK and Wolfsberg.
• A former goalkeeper who was in Portugal's UEFA EURO 2008 squad but never won a senior cap, Nuno Espírito Santo was mostly a back-up during his playing career but as a manager he is very much at the forefront, having emerged as a studious, progressive coach during spells at Valencia, Porto and, since May 2017, Wolves. He first made his mark by taking Portuguese provincial club Rio Ave to two cup finals and into Europe before shining in Spain during an 18-month stint at Mestalla. He led Wolves into the Premier League in his first season and into the UEFA Europa League in his second.
• The assistant coach in Slovan's runaway 2018/19 Slovakian title triumph, his fourth season in the role, 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.