Villarreal has learned their draw for the Europa Conference League, and they will face the winner of Hadjuk Split and Vitória SC.
Their matches will be played on the 4th and 10th of August, and here we take a look at the history of these two potential rivals, including how they did last season.
Split finished second in the Croatian league last season behind Dinamo Zagreb. They were founded in 1911 and during World War II were offered the chance to join the Italian top flight after the invasion of Yugoslavia.
The club declined and its players went on to become the formal football team of the Yugoslav resistance competing against Allied service teams across the Adriatic.
After the war, Hadjuk Split supporters came together and formed what the club might be best known for today outside of Croatia, Torcida Split.
The Torcida is the oldest supporters group in Europe, and that history has both positives and negatives. Copa90 did a brilliant video on the group that is worth 11 minutes of your time.
A few years ago while I was covering Everton for the SB Nation network over at Royal Blue Mersey, they faced Hadjuk Split in the Europa League.
In that tie, Torcida members earned themselves four different charges from UEFA for damage and pitch invasion at Everton’s Goodison Park and Everton advised supporters not to wear club colors to the away leg for safety reasons.
I’ll put video below of how things kicked off in Merseyside, but suffice to say that if Split win this tie we should be on our guard.
Riots at Goodison, Hajduk trying to storm the home end #UEL #EFC pic.twitter.com/tlNjasswEM— ßen (@BCAFCBH) August 17, 2017
Vitoria finished 6th in the Portuguese League last season, and really have not done much to strengthen their side this summer.
They were founded in 1922, and September will mark their hundred years celebration.
Their history of competing in European competition goes back to the 1970s, but the only silverware in club history came in the 2013 Taca de Portugal, that nations top cup competition.
The only clubs with more top flight seasons than Vitoria in Portugal are Benfica, Porto, and Sporting. While their supporters do not have the history of the Torcida, here’s a really impressive ten minute video of their ‘White Angels’ at work:
About seven minutes in there’s a rendition of their club anthem in a full stadium that frankly gave me goosebumps. The very best thing about playing in European football is experiencing the passion of fans from a different league than what we’re used to.
I am not sure if I’ll be able to watch any of the tie between Hadjuk Split and Vitoria but whoever we face will create huge moment in Unai Emery’s tenure at Villarreal.
It will be a tie that we are favored in and our entire European campaign will hang in the balance as new pieces to the roster are just integrating themselves and others are on their way out.