As the Champions League 2014-15 returns on Tuesday, 21st October 2014, we are poised to witness Chelsea facing a Slovenian side for the first time in their history competition. The Group G leaders will be entertained by Nk Maribor, who are the most successful Slovenian club having won 12 domestic titles. They are managed by Ante Simundza, under the captaincy of Marcos Tavares.
With ‘The Blues’ as clear favourites to win the Premier League title this season, they must be wishing to add another big title to their illustrious trophy cabinet. And which title or competition can be bigger than the coveted Champions League? So here, we look at the NK Maribor side which is the next barrier in Chelsea’s path to European glory once again.
THE TEAM AND RECENT FORM:
Founded on 12 December 1960, NK Maribor are based in Maribor, Slovenia, which is the second largest city in the country. The Vijoli?asti is one of those three clubs in the country, which have never been relegated from the Slovenian top flight. Apart from 12 Slovenian PrvaLiga titles, they have also won eight Slovenian Cups and four Slovenian Supercups.
Since 2011, the club has also been getting a lot of European exposure, consistently qualifying for the Europa League and Champions League. In their first two group G games against FC Schalke and Sporting Lisbon, Maribor managed to hold them both to a score of 1-1. If we compare the four teams of the group in terms of experience in European competitions, Maribor are far behind.
But salvaging a point a piece against two big European clubs is something remarkable. So, the West Londoners cannot afford to get carried away. However, the game won’t have much pressure on the minds of the men in blue given the top form they are in.
FORMATION AND STYLE OF PLAY:
The Slovenian champions usually play with a formation of 4-1-4-1, with the strategy of drawing teams out and waiting for the right space to open up before striking the opposition. Their game revolves around their lone striker, Marcos Tavares, who is inevitably feeded in with balls and chances by playmakers Agim Ibraimi and Zeljko Filipovic.
This is the first time that Maribor has reached Champions League since the 1999-2000 season. So clearly, they are not used to the changes that have taken place in European football in these 15 years. Their midfield, although creative and well positioned, yet lacks pace. Pace is something that has become a major part of modern day football and marks the identity of many big teams. It is something to be worried about for them, especially when they face a Chelsea side who’s midfield has been unstoppable and defence unbreakable this season.
Their patient style of play is the key. Grabbing the opportunities and making the most out of them, is what their play is all about. As mentioned earlier, their key players are Agim Ibraimi and Zeljko Filipovic. The two playmakers are involved in almost all of their build-up play and give considerably good service to their lone striker and skipper, Marcos Tavares. They overcome their lack of pace, with their good positioning and movement of the ball. Tavares has made the most appearances for the club among all other players in the current squad and had good enough experience to lead the side.
HEAD TO HEAD:
Interestingly, Maribor and Chelsea will go head to head for the 1st time. So, we don’t have any history to go by which makes the result of this Champions League clash unpredictable to some extent. Chelsea, however, are expected to be the victorious side among the two.
Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni