Slovan Bratislava and Dinamo Batumi begin their respective Champions League campaigns with Wednesday’s Qualifying first-round first leg tie at Tehelne pole.
Either Tobol of Ferencvaros will await the winners of the tie in the second round, while the losers will be forced to battle for their right to play in the Europa Conference League.
A fourth consecutive Slovakian First League title was wrapped up in convincing fashion by Slovan Bratislava last term, but translating their domestic success into a first-ever Champions League group-stage appearance has been a tall order for the national champions.
Vladimir Weiss’s side only managed to reach the second round of Qualifying last term before falling to the superiority of BSC Young Boys, but they were able to make the Europa Conference League, ultimately finishing third in Group F behind Copenhagen and PAOK.
Bratislava have hardly enjoyed a confidence-boosting pre-season period either, winning just one of their exhibition matches since the start of June, although all five of those encounters were on the road.
On a brighter note, the Slovakian champions – who have also managed to reach the group stage of the Europa League on three occasions – have gone nearly 11 years without suffering a Champions League Qualifying defeat at home – winning four and drawing three such games since.
Set to make the trek from Georgia, reigning Erovnuli Liga champions Dinamo Batumi – who won their first-ever top-flight title in 2021 – have already made great strides in their efforts to finish atop the podium again this time around.
Gia Geguchadze’s men have taken 47 points from 60 on offer so far to surge to the top of the rankings in Georgia – nine points clear of Dinamo Tbilisi – and their unbeaten streak in the top division stands at a whopping 17 matches ahead of Wednesday’s first leg.
Dinamo Batumi’s most recent encounter saw them storm to a 4-1 win over closest challengers Tbilisi, and Geguchadze’s side have kindly been given a couple of weeks off from domestic duties in order to aid their European conquest.
It will not come as much of a surprise to learn that Wednesday’s game will mark the visitors’ maiden appearance in any Champions League round, but they have been knocked out of Europa League Qualifying in the first round three times and fell in round three of the 2021-22 Europa Conference League qualifiers to Sivasspor.
Slovan Bratislava form (all competitions):
Dinamo Batumi form (all competitions):
We say: Slovan Bratislava 1-1 Dinamo Batumi
Slovan Bratislava may have the edge in terms of continental experience and recognisable faces, but take nothing away from Dinamo Batumi’s remarkable success story, and the visitors will travel to Slovakia feeling capable of going toe-to-toe with their hosts.
Wednesday’s game will prove to be a trickier affair than what the Georgian champions are used to back home, but we can envisage a low-scoring draw on the cards, with Bratislava hardly laying down a marker in pre-season.