The DW Stadium will host an historic event on Thursday, with FK Maribor the visitors. Latics will be hosting their first-ever Europa League match. Wigan will come into the game in confident mood, following a resolute 0-0 draw against Zulte Waregem in Belgium. What are the chances of a Latics win?
The timing of the match looks good for Wigan, despite the continued absence of key players through injury. Since I wrote my initial posting about FK Maribor in early September they have been on a downward spiral, winning only one match since.
Maribor’s Croatian coach Ante Čačić has resigned by mutual consent following a bad run of results by the team that normally dominates the Slovenian League. Čačić had only joined Maribor in June, following his success in winning the double with Dynamo Zagreb in the Croatian League. He resigned following a home defeat to FC Koper on Saturday.
Under his management Maribor had started the season in style, winning their first six matches. Since then they have only won one of their last five league matches and crashed 5-2 at home to Rubin Kazan in the Europa League. However, they remain at the top of the league table, on goal difference ahead of Zavrč .
The scoreline in the defeat by the Russian team has clearly caused shock waves in Maribor. Although Maribor had cut Rubin’s lead to 3-2 after being two goals behind, they had been stretched by Rubin’s forwards, the Venezuelan Salomon Rendon in particular. Rubin were to add gloss to the scoreline by getting two counter-attacking goals in time added on, including one from Rendon.
Since the loss to the Russian team Maribor have lost two matches away and drawn one at home. They are also without a win in their last five European outings. They knocked APOEL of Nicosia out of the Champions League on goal difference after two draws, then went on to lose home and away to Viktoria Plzen.
Moreover Maribor have a poor record against English teams in the Europa League, having drawn one and lost three against them. Jean Beausejour played for Birmingham City in their home and away wins against the Slovenian team in the Europa League a couple of years ago. Maribor were to finish bottom of the group with one point.
Last year Maribor went through the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, beating Zeljeznicar Sarajevo of Bosnia and Dudelange of Luxembourg before losing home and away to Croatian champions, Dinamo Zagreb in the play-off round. They were placed in a difficult group in the Europa League, which was won by Lazio. Maribor finished bottom on four points, with a 3-0 home win against Panathinaikos and a 1-1 home draw with Tottenham.
Maribor are competing in their twentieth season in European competitions. By contrast Latic were the only one of the 48 clubs competing in the opening day of the Europa League group stage who had never played in European competition before.
It is an exciting time for Wigan Athletic, who will be hoping that Maribor’s recent run of poor form will continue – at least for one more game.
There is going to be a wonderful atmosphere at the DW Stadium on Thursday night and Latics have every chance of chalking up a memorable home win.