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Underestimate NK Maribor At Your Own Peril!


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Tonight, ‘invincible’ Chelsea host European newbies NK Maribor as part of the Champions League groups stage third round at 19:45 UK time. But if you think that the match will be a walk in the park for the in form Blues, then you’re in for a surprise.

About The Match

Chelsea started this season’s European campaign with a disappointing draw against Schalke at the Bridge in a match that Mourinho’s men dominated from start to finish but just couldn't kill off. Luckily, the then blues bounced back with a narrow 1-0 win in Portugal against Sporting that put them top of the group.

One of the reasons that Chelsea find themselves top of group G is the two major upsets that Maribor have pulled by drawing first against Sporting and then in Germany against Schalke. The draws left the Slovenian team in second place and the rest of the teams in the group in shock.

Jose Mourinho was certainly paying attention to Maribor’s results and he knows exactly how tough this match will be:
“Maribor's results tell you a lot. Their results away from home have been very impressive. We have full respect for them.” Said the Portuguese manager in his prematch press conference.

Jose was also keen to point out, in a different interview on Sunday, that there will be no room for complacency on his team’s part:
"I think in this moment people will have thought they (Maribor) would have zero points but they got one point against Sporting and they went to Germany and they got exactly the same result as we got against Schalke, only ours was at Stamford Bridge. So they come to Stamford Bridge for another result. We need the three points. I'm going to play with the strongest possible team, trying to get the points, respecting them.”

But how did this fairly unknown entity in the Champions League manage to turn so many heads?

Opposition Analysis

NK Maribor first caught my attention during their Europa League run last season while I was watching their group stage matches against Josh McEachran’s Wigan and Thorgan Hazard’s Zulte. I was so impressed with their organization that I went on to watch their knock-out stages matches as well. And, looking at their draw against Schalke, they seem to still be the same well-oiled machine they were last season.

The Slovenian team does not have a standout individual they rely solely on, in fact, you will most likely not have heard of any of their players. What they do have, however, is great chemistry and discipline. They set-up very well and rarely make collective mistakes. As a team, they are hard to break down. Generally, they play 4-4-2 and use the two strikers to effectively press the opposition back four.

In attack, Zahovic has been in great scoring form for them, though he’s not alone the face of their attack. Mostly Maribor rely on counterattacks where they commit a lot of bodies forward to try catch the opposition on the wrong foot. They are by no means a ‘hoofing’ team. They get the ball on the ground and move it forwards purposefully.

Despite all that Maribor have showed in the first two CL matches, Jose Mourinho will likely have no choice but to field a weakened team, and not just because of the game at Old Traford in the weekend.

Team News

Jose announced in his prematch presser that all of Mikel (foot injury), Schurrle (sickness), Ramires (groin injury) and Costa (reoccurring hamstring issue) are ruled out of the match while Drogba “can play but not for 90 minutes”. Moreover, Azpilicueta’s domestic 3 match ban means that he will most likely start in the CL to keep Luis fresh. With all that in mind, the team basically picks itself:

Possible XI: Courtios; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Cesc, Matic, Oscar; Willian, Remy, Hazard.

NK Maribor:
In complete contrast, Maribor have zero injuries and suspensions for this match. Their team will likely look like this:

Possible XI: Handanovic; Viler, Suler, Rajcevic, Mejac; Bohar, Mertelj, Filipovic, Vrsic; Tavares, Ibraimi

Match Facts and Stats

- Chelsea and Maribor have never met in a competitive game before.
- Maribor won their last game against an English side, 2-1 against Wigan Athletic in the Europa League in December 2013. However, this is their only win over an English team (D1 L4).
- The Blues have never met a Slovenian side in Europe before.
- Chelsea won their last Champions League game against Sporting Lisbon; the Blues have not won back-to-back games in the Champions League since November 2013 (a run of three games).
- Chelsea haven't scored more than once in each of their last four Champions League games. However, they scored in each of their last 20 European games at Stamford Bridge, keeping a clean sheet eight times.
- Maribor are unbeaten after the first two games of this Champions League campaign – this is the first time they avoided defeat in consecutive games in this competition.
- It was also the first time they found the net in two consecutive Champions League games.
-Maribor's last defeat in a European game came last February against Sevilla in the Europa League. Since then, they've put together five draws and three wins (incl. qualifiers).
-Only Galatasaray (56) and Bayer Leverkusen (61) have made more tackles than Chelsea (54) in this season's Champions League.

Match Odds*

Chelsea 1/7
Draw 15/2
Maribor 18/1

*According to SkyBet

Match Coverage
Depending on where you are from, you can watch the match in the following channels:

United Kingdom: ITV
United States: Fox Soccer
Middle East: BeIN Sports

For additional regions, you can check out the TV schedule for the match here.

There should be many match streams that can be found online if your local sports channels are not broadcasting the game. Or, if you happen to be busy and cannot catch the game live, follow TalkChelsea on Twitter as it would provide live match commentary on the action.

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I don't think anyone is underestimating Maribor, especially after their two draws. But yeah, they rely more on organisation and frustrating teams.

Set pieces are definitely going to be key here.

I think Cesc and Oscar will be crucial as well. Just to give that spark of creativity and quality.

Regarding set pieces, Maribor average player height is a bit more than us (187cm) which is surprising since our team is frankly huge(185cm).

EDIT: It's actually 185cm to 183cm. I read it yesterday but remembered it wrong.

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