Maribor vs Liverpool Tuesday, October 17, 19:45BST/20:45CEST – Stadion Ljudski vrt, Maribor.
Prva Liga champions, Maribor, welcome the five-time European Cup winners, Liverpool, to Slovenia on Tuesday night. With both teams stumbling so far in European competition, this fixture gives the opportunity for one of them to take first blood in the back to back group fixtures of Matchday 3 and 4.
Maribor qualified for this season’s UEFA Champions League by winning a sixth Slovenian title in seven seasons. Currently, though, the defending champions sit in second place in the Prva Liga. An away victory last weekend against NK Rudar Velenje enables Darko Milanic’s Vijoličasti to enter this match in a vibrant mood. Maribor are looking for their first Group E victory—drawing 1-1 with Spartak.
On Matchday 1, they then went down 3-0 in Seville on Matchday 2. Having only previously lost once to English opposition at home in European competition, they will feel they meet Liverpool at a convenient time. The Vijoličasti have 28 points from 12 league fixtures so far and are 14 league matches unbeaten. Will they be able to translate this extraordinary domestic form into European success, and with it produce one of the shocks of the UEFA Champions League so far?
Jürgen Klopp’s Redmen enter this fixture off the back of a mini-crisis. While managing to outplay their opponents of late, they have had a real problem finding the net. Last weekend’s Premier League fixture-list pitted them against arch-rivals Manchester United. Retaining the lion’s possession of play, 65%, they managed 15 shots at goal but crucially only registered six on target. Just one of those six was enough to trouble United goalkeeper David de Gea.
This problem of late was typified in Matchday 2 away in Moscow. Once again Liverpool controlled the game for long periods but were unable to make their superiority count. Along with a problem finding the net, the Reds have had trouble keeping the ball out of the other end—lapses in judgement have been punished to good effect by both Sevilla and Spartak so far in this season’s competition. Tuesday night’s fixture away at Maribor is a must win for Klopp’s side, a failure to capture all three points will place uncertainty on their chances of progressing out of Group E.
Maribor vs Liverpool – Players to look out for:
Damjan Bohar #39
The 25-year-old Slovenian left midfielder rescued a point for Maribor on Matchday 1 against Spartak Moscow. Latching onto the end of a Martin Kramaric pass, Bohar cut inside to curl the ball home from 16 yards – it was a high-pressure situation he found himself in 85 minutes, and it was one in which the midfielder remained composed and finished neatly. He also offers Head Coach, Milanic, a multi-option, operating at either left midfield or attacking left midfield Bohar can drive at defences and produce the goods when it matters. Scoring again on the weekend, this time on 82 minutes it was his goal that secured all three points for the champions to keep the pressure on league leaders Olimpija Ljubljana.
Philippe Coutinho #10
The Brazilian has managed to turn around his relationship with those connected with the Anfield side. Initially pushing for a well-publicised move to Barcelona, he has now settled back down and committed his all for his teammates in red. Having a disrupted preseason meant 25-year-old had a long journey to match fitness—however, fixtures of late have given a good indication that the accomplished magician is back to a level whereby he can change games in an instant. With Liverpool desperate for points and without talisman Mané, it will Coutinho who the reds will look to build a comprehensive attack—scored in his previous three successive appearances before Saturday’s goalless draw with Manchester United.
Maribor vs Liverpool – Match Stats
- This fixture is the first time in which the teams have met in UEFA competition.
- Both teams are looking for their first Group E win.
- Maribor have won just one of their eight previous matches against English clubs – W1 D2 L5.
- Liverpool have played Slovenian opposition once before in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup — NK Olimpija Ljubljana D1 W1
- Including the final two games of last season, Maribor are 14 league matches unbeaten (W9 D5)
Prediction: Maribor vs Liverpool – 1:3
Handanovic; Milec, Rajcevic, Billong, Viler; Pihler, Kabaa, Vrhovec, Bohar; Ahmedi; Tavares
Coach: Darko Milanic
Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Can; Salah, Firmino; Coutinho
Coach: Jürgen Klopp
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions. Published in both local and international football publications, he also contributes to television and radio across the globe. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) he lives and breathes football. Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams