UEFA Europa League: Balzan take on Slovan Bratislava, Valletta face HSK Zrinjski

Balzan will be facing Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia in the main path of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round while Valletta will be meeting HSK Zrinjski Mostar of Bosnia Herzegovina in the champions path of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.

Balzan host Slovan Bratislava at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 18:00 while at 19:00, Valletta face HSK Zrinjski at the HSK Zrinjski Stadion in Mostar. On Thursday 2nd August, Valletta host HSK Zrinjski at the Centenary Stadium, kick-off at 18:00 while Balzan entertain Slovan Bratislava at the Stadion Pasienky in Bratislava, kick-off at 20:30.

Balzan’s opponents – ŠK Slovan Bratislava, were founded in 1919 and are based in Bratislava, Slovakia. They are the most successful team in Slovakia with the most titles in both league and cup in the country. Slovan Bratislava became the first and so far only club in Slovakia as well as former Czechoslovakia to win one of the European cup competitions, the Cup Winners’ Cup when they defeated FC Barcelona in the final in Basel in 1969.

Slovan Bratislava won the league in Czechoslovakia eight times, the old Slovak League four times, the Slovak Super Liga eight times, the Czechoslovak Cup five times, the Slovak Cup 15 times and apart from the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1968/69, they also were one of the winners of the Intertoto Cup nine times.

They finished second last season the Slovak Super Liga on 59 points from 32 matches, five points behind champions Spartak Trnava. They also won the Slovak Cup after defeating Ružomberok 3-1 in the final.

Slovan Bratislava have been participating regularly in UEFA competitions since 1957. In recent years, they made it twice to the group stage of the UEFA Europa League- in seasons 2011/12 and 2014/15, In summer 2015, they were eliminated from the third round by Krasnodar of Russia; from the second round in 2016, by Jelgava of Latvia and last year in the second round by Lyngby of Denmark. This season, they eliminated Milsami Orhei of Moldova, defeating them 4-2 in Moldova and 5-0 at home.

Meanwhile Valletta’s opponents – Hrvatski športski klub Zrinjski Mostar are based in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The club plays in the Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and has been one of the top teams in the country over the years.

The club was founded by Croatian youth in 1905 and is the oldest football club in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After World War II, all clubs that had participated in the wartime Prva HNL were banned in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Zrinjski being one of them. The ban lasted from 1945 to 1992. The club was reformed after the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It played in the Herzeg-Bosnia First League until 2000 when it joined the Premier League.

In 2005, Zrinjski celebrated its first championship crown in the Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since then they won the league another five times including the last two years. They won the Cup once in 2007/08.

They have been participating in the main UEFA competitions since 2005 but their best achievement was reaching the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League in 2010 when they were then eliminated by OB Odense of Denmark. This season, they were eliminated by Spartak Trnava of Slovakia losing 1-0 in Trnava and being held in a 1-1 draw in Mostar.

This will be the second visit for HSK Zrinjski to Malta as they were drawn with Marsaxlokk in the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2006, winning with a 4-1 aggregate score.