Ljubljana hosts the first ever group stage match of a European Cup: Olimpija takes on Slovan with high expectations
After the first round defeat, in which Lille was expected to be the stronger opponent, the Olimpija will play its first home game in the Conference League on Thursday. The match with Slovan will be historic – Olimpija has never hosted a European Cup group stage match at home.
But unfortunately, the reaction of the Ljubljana football public is not what it should be. While the visitors from Bratislava will be supported by well over 1000 fans, Olimpija supporters have been buying tickets very, very slowly in the past few days. It will certainly be interesting to see how many people will actually be in Stožice, where the match will kick off at 18.45, but unfortunately it seems utopian to expect the stands to be packed.
Meanwhile, it is expected to be a fairly even match on the pitch. Slovan had a tough time beating their Faroe Islands rivals in the first round, but the Slovaks are undoubtedly a more tailor-made opponent than Lille. However, Joao Henriques stresses that his team has a very challenging task ahead of them.
“I expect a tough match. Just like always in Europe. We are in a conference league and it is always challenging here. Nevertheless, expectations are high, because we want to succeed. We are ready. No injuries. We are fully booked. After Rogaška, we recovered properly. Sunday was really difficult because of the pitch, but today all the boys are in great shape,” said Dragons coach Joao Henriques at the last press conference before the game .
Olimpija flirts with first points
On the opponent, for whom Kenan Bajrić and Marko Tolić also play, Joao Henriques added: “Slovan Bratislava, an experienced team that has already done something in Europe, is standing in front of us. They know how to proceed. They have many qualities and characteristics similar to Ludogorets. We want to get points because we are chasing something more. We are playing at home, so we want to give something back to the club and the fans. We will fight. Lille is the clear favourite, then Slovan Bratislava, and the two surprises are us and Klaksvik. Two teams competing for the first time in Europe. If successful, it will certainly be easier to continue. We are focused on progress. To work over a long period of time, not on individual moments. We want to make progress at all levels. We are not only thinking about a clean net, we primarily want to attack the opponent and score.”
If Olimpija wants to record the first package of three points (or at least one), it will have to play the game with the Slovak giant at a very high level, the Portuguese expert stresses. “We need to be at our peak. The boys need to be aware of their individual tasks. Slovan have good dynamics, they are dangerous with the ball, they attack in large numbers, so we need to close all the spaces properly to prevent any danger. If we are successful in this, it will be easier. I look and think as a team. The Slovaks are good in attack and defence. Mature players are used to this level. They know how to find the right solution, and we have analysed them well. We will persevere with our game. We want possession, we want to attack and we want to score goals. We are also improving defensively. We create a lot of chances to score against everyone. I can’t remember a game when this wasn’t the case. If we focus properly, it will be very good for us, but at the same time difficult for Slovan,” said Joao Henriques.
Olimpija hasn’t been brilliant in recent years. It has had a lot of problems, especially in defence, while the attack is in better shape. Against Rogaska the Green and Whites finally kept the net intact and Joao Henriques sees this as a good sign for the season ahead.
Joao Henriques: “Let’s not run away from responsibility”
“If we talk about attacking play, we scored by far the most goals. In France, we scored from an 11th-minute penalty and a side-footed error. In Europe, of course, the emphasis is on tactics and discipline. Quite different from the league. We need to be aware of reality. This is the first time Olimpija has played at this level and we are learning as we go along. But at the same time, of course, we want to win. We enjoy the experience, but the objectives are known. We wanted to get into the group, we did. Our next goal is to win the league. We are working on it. So we are in the conference league because of quality. Team and individual. We will continue to do so, but we must remain firmly on the ground. We are not the favourites, but expectations are understandably high, so we promise to give 100% all the time. We know that even the better teams lose. That’s football. We are not running away from our responsibilities, but we are aware of what this means for all of us. From all angles,” added Joao Henriques ahead of the showdown with the 21-time Slovak champion, where Andraž Šporar shone in his time.
The Group A match will kick off at 18:45, as mentioned above, with Anastasios Sidiropoulos, a Greek referee who was included on FIFA’s list of international referees in 2011, officiating. Group A will also feature today the champions Klaksvik from Faroe and Lille from France. This match will also start at 18:45.
This text was automatically translated using AI.