It will again be a Champions League night when Group G leaders, Chelsea, will be hosted by NK Maribor, on Wednesday.
The atmosphere, the passion, the chills going down everyone’s spine on listening to the Champions League anthem, staying up late in the night until the final whistle (especially if you live in an Asian country), celebrating the victory, not being able to sleep after a loss, these are all a part of an amazing Champions League night.
The Blues must register a good win on Wednesday to make this night memorable. The two sides also met in their last match of the tournament, when the visitors, NK Maribor, returned disappointed after a 6-0 thumping from the home team.
So before we go up against the Maribor side, let us have a look at the team we are up against.
THE TEAM AND THE RECENT FORM
NK Maribor is a club based in Maribor, Slovenia, which is the second largest city in the country. Founded in 1960, they are one of the 3 Slovenian clubs which have never been relegated from the domestic top flight. Having won 12 Slovenian PrvaLiga titles, eight Slovenian Cups, and four Slovenian Supercups, they are the most successful club in the country. The team is managed by Ante Simundza, under the captaincy of Marcos Tavares.
After visiting Stamford Bridge, Simundza’s men have played two PrvaLiga matches, winning one of them by 1-0 and losing the other with the same scoreline. The defending champions are in 4th place in the league, with 29 points from 15 matches which include 9 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses.
The defending Slovenian champions have not shown much of their true colours this season. But in the 4th round of Group G games, they will have huge support from the home crowd when they’ll play host to the Premier League leaders. So, NK Maribor will be a team to watch out for on Wednesday.
FORMATION AND STYLE OF PLAY
The Violets are known to play with a 4-1-4-1 formation, but Ante Simundza now seems to have changed his style and has switched to a 4-4-2 formation. They were expected to line up in a defensive style against Chelsea, but the team had the audacity to get into the Chelsea half and attack.
Their plan, however, backfired when Chelsea took advantage of the gap in Maribor’s defence with some quality defending and hard work in midfield. Planning was good, but they lacked the quality that Chelsea’s midfield had. It will now be interesting to see if Simundza will again have the guts to prefer the same attacking style, or will he opt to avoid any risk by sitting back and wait for the counter.
STRENGTH- KEY PLAYERS
Luka Zahovic: The 18-year-old centre forward is the top goal scorer in the PrvaLiga with 8 goals, and also the leading club goalscorer with 10 goals in all competitions. A specialist in a one-on-one situation, the striker suits best to the 4-4-2 formation, which NK Maribor has adopted in recent games. Zahovic is at his best when he can get a good diagonal through ball.
Marcos Tavares: The talismanic captain is probably the biggest strength of the team. He has been a loyal servant to the club for more than 6 years now and has helped them a lot by scoring more than 120 goals and 67 assists. He has made the most appearances for Maribor among all of their current players. He has 5 goals to his name this season, which includes one penalty.
The team is going through a great deal of injury problems with two of their key playmakers, Agim Ibraimi and Zeljko Filipovic, doubtful for tomorrow’s match. Another drawback is their obvious lack of true individual quality. They will be seriously handicapped when it will come to one-on-one matchups against Chelsea’s highly talented squad.
FACE TO FACE
The two sides have met only once throughout the history, when the West Londoners thrashed NK Maribor 6-0 just a fortnight ago in the 3rd round of Group G matches in Champions League.
Although it is clear that Chelsea can easily get past Maribor one more time and confirm their place in knockout stages, Jose’s men cannot afford to get carried away. Since it is a must win game for the Slovenian champions to stay in Champions League, they are sure to give whatever it takes to win.
Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni