Wigan Athletic’s second match in the Europa League is scheduled for October 3rd with a visit from NK Maribor of Slovenia.
Maribor currently top the PrvaLiga – the Slovenian League. After winning their first six league matches they were held to a disappointing 1-1 home draw by Gorica on Sunday.
Last season Maribor won the 10 team PrvaLiga by a margin of 8 points. As Slovenian champions they entered the second qualifying round of the 2013-14 Champions League, being drawn against Birkikara of Romania. Home and away victories against the Romanian team put them into the third qualifying round where they met APOEL of Nicosia.
Maribor came away from the first leg in Cyprus with a hard fought 1-1 draw courtesy of a header from Brazilian forward Magno Tavares. Maribor were to qualify for the playoffs through a 0-0 draw in Slovenia, after having to withstand a second half barrage from the Cypriot team. However, with the Champions League group stage beckoning they were to come unstuck against Czech champions, Viktoria Plzen, losing 3-1 away and 1-0 at home.
Maribor is a beautiful town of around 95,000 inhabitants in the Styria region in the north east of Slovenia. It is around 60 miles from the capital Ljubljana.
Nogometni Klub Maribor was founded in 1960. The club initially played in the Yugoslav leagues, competing in the top tier from 1967-72. During that time their highest league position was 10th place in the 1969-70 season.
In 1991 Slovenia had broken away from Yugoslavia and they established their own football league. Since then NK Maribor have dominated the PrvaLiga, winning it 11 times and the Slovenian Cup 8 times.
NK Maribor play at the Ljudskivrt stadium, built in 1952 on the banks of the Drava River. It has a capacity of 12,994. They play in an all purple kit.
Despite being a small club by European standards Maribor have reached the group stage of the Champions League in both 2011-12 and 2012-13. They frequently lose their prized assets to bigger clubs, but nurture talented young players through their youth programme.
Much of Maribor’s more recent success can be attributed to the appointment of national hero, Zlatko Zahovic, as their Director of Football in 2007. The ex-Benfica and Porto attacking midfielder was the key figure in Slovenia qualifying for both the World Cup and the European Championship in the early 2000’s. He played a record 80 games for his country, scoring 35 goals.
Maribor enter the Europa league after already playing six matches in European competition this season. This well-run club continues to punch above its weight and should not be underestimated.
With such a wealth of experience behind them in European competitions they are going to be hard to beat.