NK Maribor sounds more like a luxury liner run aground in the Adriatic than our next opponents in the Europa League, but if we don’t get a positive result in Slovenia on Thursday it may be our trophy hopes that are on the rocks. Boom boom! Thank you, I’m here all week.
Our results so far mean that we’re likely to need an away win to make sure of getting out of the group and I suspect that’s more likely in the Ljudski vrt (according to Wiki ‘considered one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world’) than the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Unsurprisingly I’m no expert on Slovenian football, a quick bit of internet research though reveals that Maribor are the dominant domestic force having won the title 10 times in the past 16 years. Their team consists mostly of Slovenian players, augmented by the standard sprinkling of Brazilians that just about every team has it seems. One of these, Marcos Tavares (presumably not one of the ‘Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel’ brothers) appears to be their main threat. Maribor were in Birmingham’s EL group last season (City won both games), I wonder if anyone’s been on the phone to Chris Hughton for an insight into what to expect out there?
No doubt the phrase ‘taking the competition seriously’ will be trotted out a few more times this week, given the evidence of last Saturday though, which showed the damage a couple of absentees in key areas can do, Villas-Boas will think seriously before risking the likes of Lennon, Defoe and Sandro, to name but three players we cannot currently afford to lose. Lloris, Adebayor, Livermore, Dawson and Townsend will be hoping for outings as well as Benny & Naughton if they’re ready. Adebayor was shocking against Chelsea and clearly has some cobwebs to clear so should definitely be given a start.
Personally I hope we go for them from the whistle, try and get an early goal or two and then take players off who need a rest, that’s probably just a fantasy given the stodge we generally serve up in the first half of games though. A win would leave us nicely poised, just winning our home ties would then see us through. A draw or a loss would give us a headache.
The officials are from Russia. COYS.
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