Maribor’s Magnificent March on Europe

By George Rinaldi. With the Champions League fast approaching and Europe's elite preparing to lock horns again for another tournament of thrills and spills, there are of course some teams who enter the fray through the side entrance: unknown, timid and a tad inconspicuous. George Rinaldi will be giving The Offside Rule (We Get It!) readers a complete rundown each week of these sides to make sure you are up to scratch with your Bulgarian lingo, your Slovakian half-time snack and your dark horse player to get you those bonus fantasy league points!

A closer look at Slovenian side NK Maribor

Name: NK Maribor (Pronounced – Mah-ree-bore – Make sure to roll your ‘r’!)

Nickname: Vijolicasti (The Purples)

Founded: 1960

Country: Slovenia

Stadium: Ljudski vrt – 13,000 capacity

The one to tune in for: (A) Chelsea (October 21st 2014)

Manager: Ante Simundza

Maribor play their home games at Stadion Ljudski Vrt

Maribor play their home games at Stadion Ljudski Vrt

The Lowdown

Simundza’s men come into the European Elite competition having won the PrvaLiga, the top Slovenian league, alongside the Slovenian Supercup and were also runners-up in the domestic competition as well. Despite this success, the best club in the country only attracted on average 3,000 fans to their league games.

Since Slovenia gained independence in 1991, Maribor have managed to appear in a UEFA competition 21 times out of a possible 23. Along with that, they are the only Slovenians to have made the Champions League group stages. They’ve only managed one win – a 1-0 success over Dynamo Kiev.

How did they get here?

Having won the PrvaLiga, Maribor avoided the first qualifying round but still had to take on three different sides. Wins against Zrinjski Mostar (2-0 agg) and Maccabi Tel Aviv (3-2agg) saw the Purples meet Celtic in the Play-off round.

The Slovenian side managed to finally knock out the Bhoys with a deserved 2-1 win on aggregate. Maribor captain Marcos Taveres was to be the hero of the second leg, netting the only goal of the game 15 minutes from time at Celtic Park.

Maribor celebrate the winning goal from Marcos Tavares

Maribor celebrate the winning goal from Marcos Tavares

Who will they meet?

Maribor have been dealt a fairly average group; they could easily expect to sneak themselves a Europa League place. Chelsea are expected to top the group comfortably and the match at Stamford Bridge should be an enjoyable one for any Slovenians who get the chance to go.

German side Schalke are likely to closely follow the Blues into the knockout stage, with a strong team that includes the likes of Julian Draxler and Klass Jan-Huntelaar. Portuguese outfit Sporting CP will be hoping to grab the third spot themselves which means the opener at Ljudski vrt could prove massive if Maribor grab the victory.

Wednesday 17/09/14         Maribor v Sporting CP

Tuesday 30/10/14               Schalke 04 v Maribor

Tuesday 21/10/14               Chelsea v Maribor

Wednesday 05/11/14         Maribor v Chelsea

Tuesday 25/11/14               Sporting CP v Maribor

Wednesday 10/12/14         Maribor v Schalke 04

Slovenian chant to yell at the TV

Mi smo violet – smo vedno z vami! Ker si nase vse, smo skupaj kot eno!

(Roughly translates this Maribor chant to: ‘We’re the violet – we’re always with you! Because you’re our everything. We are together as one!’)

Half-time snack – Prekmurska gibanica

Renowned Slovenian dessert from Prekmurje is stuffed with poppy seeds, cottage cheese, walnuts and apples. Preferably sprinkled with sugar to complete the dish. If it’s as sweet as Nusmir’s Fajic’s left foot, you’re onto a winner.

Nusmir Fajic had a formidable domestic goalscoring last seaon

Nusmir Fajic had a formidable domestic goalscoring record last seaon

Player for your UCL Fantasy Team

Speaking of Fajic, the forward managed to grab 16 goals in 18 starts across the whole of the last campaign in Slovenia. A good back-up option for your forward line if ever there was one.

Read more from George Rinaldi here!

Follow @GeorgeRinaldi

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