In Profile: Taking a Closer Look at Everton's Europa League Play-Off Opponents Hajduk Split
Everton are on the cusp of competing in the Europa League group stages for the first time in four seasons, but their path is blocked by a potentially formidable foe.
Croatian club HNK Hajduk Split stand between the Toffees and progression to the proper rounds of UEFA's continental club tournament, and the two-legged play-off tie will be a tough one to navigate in a first ever meeting between the pair.
Just who are Hajduk Split though? Should they be a team to be feared? And what of their own success throughout their history? Here's everything you need to know about the Blues' upcoming opponents:
Who Are HNK Hajduk Split?
Hajduk Split beat Brondby 2-0 on aggregate in the last round & finished third in the Croatian league last season. Stadium holds around 34k— Patrick Boyland (@Paddy_Boyland) August 4, 2017
Founded on 13th February 1911, Hajduk Split are one of the most successful Croatian sides throughout their nation's history.
Currently managed by Spaniard Joan Carrillo, Split ply their trade in the top tier of Croatian professional football - the Prva HNL - and have done so since the breakup of former country Yugoslavia.
Split have been part of Croatia's top flight since its inaugural season began in 1992, and enjoyed their best period of success during the 1970s when they played out their football in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia national championship.
The club plays its home matches at the Stadion Poljud, with the stadium's capacity able to hold over 34,000 spectators.
Their main rivals are Dinamo Zagreb, and the derby clashes between the pair are often referred to as the "Eternal Derby". Split are one of only two sports teams with fan ownership in Croatia, with the number of supporters involved in their club's dealings sitting at around 40,000 members.
Nicknamed the "Bills", Hajduk play in traditional white shirts with blue shorts and socks at home, while their away kit consists of a red and blue striped jersey with blue shorts and socks.
Any Silverware Success to Take Note of?
Well, yes! Split have become one of Croatia's most trophy-laden sides, with eight league titles and six Croatian Cups in their silverware cabinet.
The last of those league triumphs, however, came back during the 2004/05 campaign, while they last tasted title success in 2013 when they lifted their sixth and last Croatian Cup.
Before that, Hajduk had secured 10 Yugoslavian league trophies and nine Yugoslavian Cups - the only trophy double in their entire history coming during the 1972/73 season.
Hajduk Split finished third in the HNL standings last season, 19 points off eventual winners Rijeka.
Any Famous Victories?
A smattering to speak of, yes. Hajduk have revelled in securing notable victories over English duo Tottenham and Arsenal, Serie A side Inter Milan, La Liga outfit Valencia and Belgian team Anderlecht throughout their history.
Unfortunately for them, none of the ties have seen them progress to the next stages of either the European Cup/Champions League or UEFA Cup/Europa League due to defeats usually in the second leg of contests, but their wins still count!
Their most recent success over another European giant came during their 2010/11 Europa League campaign when a 1-0 triumph was secured on home turf against Anderlecht, while their biggest win came about in a 4-1 pummelling of Valencia during the 1981/82 UEFA Cup last-16 tie - a result that saw them bow out 6-5 on aggregate.
Who Are Their Key Men?
There aren't too many noticable names in Split's first-team squad, but that doesn't mean that there are no dangermen for Everton to be aware of.
Left winger Ante Erceg, for instance, has begun the season in fine fettle - the 27-year-old netting four goals in his first six appearances this term - to take his overall tally for the club to 17 goals in just 39 games.
Talented Croatia Under-21 international Nikola Vlasic is currently the club's longest serving player, with the 19-year-old forward featuring 115 times for Split.
Centre-back Zoran Nizic - a one-time capped Croatia international - has also appeared over 100 times for Hajduk, while right-back Fran Tudor and Hungary striker Marko Futacs (pictured above) are also potential players to watch - the latter of whom has plundered 22 goals in just 32 games for Split.
Their most famous recent export is former Blackburn Rovers and current Fiorentina striker Nikola Kalinic, who bagged 33 goals in 59 matches before a £5m switch to the Premier League in August 2009.
Lazio defender Ivan Strinic, West Ham boss Slaven Bilic and ex-Everton ace Nicola Jelavic also plied their trade with Hajduk at varying points of their playing careers.
When Will the Two-Legged Tie Take Place?
Everton will welcome the Majstori s mora to Goodison Park on Thursday 17th August (kick off time TBC) before Split host Ronald Koeman's men on the Eastern shore of Croatia a week later on the 24th August (kick off time TBC). The tie will also be televised live on BT Sport.