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)
Stadium: Ljudski vrt – 13,000 capacity
The one to tune in for: (A) Chelsea (October 21st 2014)
Manager: Ante Simundza
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.
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.
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!