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Marek Hamsik in for "special game" against Slovan Bratislava

Today's Europa League fixture isn't just any match: it's also Marek Hamsik's homecoming to the club that he played his first professional match for.

Jamie McDonald

When a player comes from a smaller country and makes it big abroad, he doesn't always get a chance to revisit his old stomping grounds in a professional capacity. A lot of times even if both clubs are in the same competition, the odds of them being drawn together in a particular round are so small it just doesn't happen, unless you're Zlatan Ibrahimovic and have played for a ton of big sides and come this close to having a whole Champions League group of your clubs.

Marek Hamsik hasn't moved around nearly that often, though, with only two clubs other than Napoli in his past. One of those is Slovan Bratislava, where he played as a youth prospect for two years, making six first team appearances in 2004 and scoring his first professional goal. That makes Napoli's Europa League trip to the Stadion Pasienky a homecoming even for Marekiaro and a potentially emotional day.

"This is a special game for me," Hamsik mused during his pre-match press conference. "I played here for over two years and this is the first time I’ll be facing a Slovakian team in my career [since then]. I am happy to know I am an idol for Slovakian fans, as that is what a player dreams of when he’s a kid. My teammates asked me many questions about Slovan and the stadium where we’ll be playing."

Slovan manager Frantisek Straka has said that his side is looking forward to the occasion as much as anyone else, and that the fans are preparing a warm reception for their returning hero. Seeing what they put together to acknowledge and welcome Marek should be quite special to see, not to mention seeing his reaction to whatever display is put together. Might want to keep some kleenex handy just in case.