A closer look at Stjarnan: Inter’s UEL opponents

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MILAN – Inter’s opponents in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League play-offs were revealed at today’s draw in Nyon: Stjarnan of Iceland was the name that came out of the pots for Mazzarri’s men, who will now start preparing for a trip into the unknown.

The Icelandic minnows, based in Garðabær, a city of 13,000 inhabitants close to the capital Reykjavik, are making their bow in European competition this season. They have reached the Europa League play-offs after beating Bangor City, Motherwell and Lech Poznan.

The Welsh outfit were brushed aside 8-0 on aggregate (4-0 in each leg) in the first qualifying round, while the Scots proved to be a far sterner test, Stjarnan eventually winning the second leg 3-2 in extra time after 2-2 draws over 90 minutes both in Scotland and Iceland (5-4 aggregate). The team coached by Rúnar Páll Sigmundsson then pulled off a shock 1-0 aggregate victory (1-0 at home, 0-0 away) to edge past Lech Poznan in the third qualifying round.

Stjarnan play in the Icelandic Premier League (Úrvalsdeild karla), having achieved promotion from the 1. deild karla in 1989. They have never won the title but currently sit second in the 12-team league on 29 points, two behind current leaders FH, just over halfway through the campaign. They are unbeaten thus far, having recorded eight wins and five draws.

The fans’ idol is 34-year-old former Iceland international Veigar Páll Gunnarsson, who returned to his boyhood club last year after a long career that has included spells in Norway and France.

Olafur Finsen has plundered six of the team’s 24 league goals this season, adding another five in the Europa League qualifying rounds.

If you’ve heard of Stjarnan before, it’s probably because they have made something of a name for themselves in recent years thanks to their wacky goal celebrations, which have proved a real hit on the internet.

This Europa League tie will be Inter’s first ever meeting with an Icelandic side. The first leg is to be played in Iceland on 21 August and the return leg at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on 28 August.