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Getting to know: NK Olimpija Ljubljana

To find out a little more about today’s opponents, we got in touch with a locally-based Chelsea supporter.

Davey Edwards grew up in London but moved to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, five years ago. He is perfectly-placed, therefore, to tell us a little more about NK Olimpija Ljubljana, the Stozice stadium - where the match will take place – and the Slovenian national team.

‘Olimpija is a fairly young club due to an interesting piece of recent history,’ notes Edwards.

‘The original, four-times Slovenian champions Olimpija went bankrupt and were dissolved in 2005. NK Olimpija Ljubljana was founded in March 2005 - initially under the name NK Bezigrad - in a similar fashion to the likes of AFC Wimbledon. They worked their way up from the bottom tier of the Slovenian football leagues earning four successive promotions along the way.

‘The team now is predominantly made up of Slovenians, though none currently represent the national team - hardly surprising considering just four players from the Prva Liga, Slovenia’s top flight, were called up to their 23-man international squad for games against Uruguay and Argentina last month.

‘In terms of notable players that once graced the green of Olimpija, there are a couple that stand out. Jan Oblak, a goalkeeper, has this summer signed for Atletico Madrid from Benfica for a reported fee of 16 million euros. He was named the best goalkeeper in the Portuguese top flight last season.

‘Another is Miran Pavlin (pictured top with our former player Slavisa Jokanovic). The now retired striker played for the original NK Olimpija and returned there later in his career to help guide the reformed team back into the Prva Liga. Between then he played in Germany and for Porto, at one stage under the guidance of Jose Mourinho.’

And what of the Stozice stadium, home of Olimpija and the Slovenian national team?

‘It opened in 2010 and it’s an ambitious stadium for a country so small,’ continues Edwards.

‘It seats around 16,000 people. Olimpija are the only club side that call Stozice their home ground, which will help with income from tickets if the club manage to qualify for the group stages of European football.

‘NK Olimpija, whose nicknames are the Green-Whites or the Dragons, moved to the ground when it opened in 2010 having previously played at the Bezigrad Stadium, the former home of the national team.’

In June next year England will visit Stozice for a EURO 2016 qualifier, and Edwards believes that despite the small population of Slovenia – around two million people – the future is relatively bright for their national team, also an opponent of England’s at the World Cup in 2010. He cites Samir Handanovic, the Inter Milan goalkeeper, fellow Serie A players Josep Ilicic and Jasmin Kurtic, of Fiorentina and Sassuolo respectively, and the prodigious Red Bull Salzburg winger Kevin Kampl as the team’s key players.

Today’s game will be Chelsea’s first in Slovenia, and our second of this two-week long training camp. After the match, the team will fly straight to Holland which will be their base next week.

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