Archive for August, 2011

Aug 03 2011

Now or Never; crunch time for Slovan

Published by under European

“I believe” says Slovan captain Igor Zofcak on the front page of today’s Dennik Sport, with a look of real focus in his eyes.

The whole team must believe.  Today is the day, everything Slovan have achieved in 2011 has been building up to this.  League and Cup doubles are great, but tonight, the stakes are on a whole different level.  This is the 3rd qualifying round for the Champions League, there is still one hurdle to negotiate after this, but huge rewards are within touching distance now.  Tonight is a massive night for Slovan Bratislava and APOEL Nicosia.  The only consolation is that the losers still have a shot at the Europa League, but this match is about one thing only; the Champions League.

Ask me 8 days ago if I’d have settled for a 0-0 out in Cyprus, I’d have definitely said yes.  0-0 is a very risky result away from home in Europe, of course the away goal would have been better, but Slovan’s players were real heros last week.  APOEL won their domestic league by a clear 12 points from rivals Omonia last season.  Omonia comfortably put ADO Den Haag away 3-0 just 2 days after Slovan escaped the Cypriot capital with a draw.  The temperature out there in mid-summer, the atmosphere with 15,000 APOEL fanatics and just a few dozen ‘Belasi’, everything was against Slovan, but they held on.  Yes they had some good fortune, yes Putnocky made a miraculous save, yes APOEL buggered up numerous chances, but that is football.

Belasi in Cyprus

Slovan also created chances, and that is where they must be better tonight, when the chance comes [Filip Sebo], you have to put it away!  Either that or we’re going to need a Jiri Kladrubsky special from 25 yards, or some Zofcak magic from a set-piece.  Slovan will have chances to score, I have no doubt about that, but the finishing must be clinical.  This is Champions League, not Corgon League!

A full-strength Slovan have as good a shot as they’re probably ever going to have of progressing.  Slovan lost at Zilina last weekend, but coach Karel Jarolim admitted the focus is purely on tonight’s match and who can blame him?  There is €2.1 Million at stake for a start, and we don’t need to mention what a first Champions League appearance would mean for the future of this club.

From the predicted starting XI for tonight, Bagayoko, Cikos, Had, Dobrotka, Kladrubsky, Zofcak, Guede and Sebo were all rested last weekend.  Personally I’m not so sure Jarolim will play both Bagayoko and Stepanovsky, but maybe he’ll start that way and introduce Milinkovic later if required.  Perhaps it will be prudent to start out slightly defensive, because an away goal for APOEL would be a massive set-back.   Slovan’s players needed the rest; Zilina was Slovan’s 3rd league match of the season and they’d just played tough matches out in Kazakhstan and Cyprus in the space of of week.  One positive to come out of the squad rotation has been the apparent return to form of Juraj Halenar, goals against Senica and a cracker against Zilina show that if Sebo isn’t firing, or extra attacking options are required, Jarolim has them.

Over 7,000 tickets were sold by the end of yesterday and no doubt the remaining 3,000 or so will be snapped up throughout today and before the match.  This will probably be only the 2nd sell-out at Pasienky after the Red Star game last season so the atmosphere will be electric.  Around 750 APOEL fans are also expected, which is around 750 more than the average Slovak team bring so this will be a real occasion to savour.  Once again, one hopes the security measures are up to standard, because if Slovan do progress in Europe, the last thing they will need is more problems surrounding the stadium.

Everything will become clear tonight,  Slovan do toho!

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