Maribor vs Spartak Moscow – Wednesday, September 13 19:45 BST/20:45 CET – Ljudski vrt, Maribor.
Spartak Moscow are back in the UEFA Champions League after winning their first Russian championship since the 2001 season last spring. With the title drought over Russia’s most historic club are now aiming at the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
This will be Spartak’s first UEFA Champions League group stage participation in four years, and there are some fears that the club could embarrass itself on Europe’s biggest stage. After all, Spartak has been poor at the start of the Russian Football Premier League and is currently far from the form that the Myaso were last season.
Some of the poor form has come down to Spartak’s inability their transfer targets. During the winter head coach, Massimo Carrera and Spartak’s management were able to secure all signings before the club travelled to their training camp. It allowed Carrera to prepare his side and successfully challenge for the Russian championship.
This season the FIFA Confederations Cup and the inability of the front office to nail down their transfer targets has meant that Spartak did not complete their transfer business until the day before the window closed. The recent international break have given Carrera enough time to get his house in order as Spartak beat Rubin Kazan 1-0 on matchday 9 reversing the club’s downward spiral.
Maribor in the meantime have continued their dominance over the Slovenian Prva Liga. Currently top of the table the Slovenian side are the big outsiders in Group E of the UEFA Champions League. There has been some hope that Spartak’s poor form could give the club a window of opportunity and collect three points against the Russian giants. But with Carrera having put his house in order during the international break the Russians will be travelling to Slovenia as the favourites and likely winners of the match.
Maribor vs Spartak – Players to Watch Out For:
Sandi Ogrinec #18 – Maribor
As a small side from the former Yugoslavia Maribor are dependent on producing young talented players that can be then sold to one of Europe’s bigger sides with a profit. Sandi Ogrinec might very well be one of those players. The 19-year-old Slovenian U-19 national team player has already featured in two Prva Liga matches this season and has a bright future ahead of him.
Pedro Rocha #99 – Spartak Moscow
Just before the transfer window closed, Spartak were able to land re-enforcement for their attack. The club signed Brazilian winger Pedro Rocha from the Brasilierão side Grêmio for €12 million on August 31. The concluded transfer raised some eyebrows among Spartak fans because Spartak were linked with his teammate Luan. Pedro Rocha may indeed be a poor man’s Luan, but there are also indications that Spartak may have landed a talent, who could help them in the long term. Pedro Rocha, after all, managed four goals and three assists in the Libertadores this season indicating that he can be a valuable player in competitive games.
Maribor vs Spartak Moscow – Match Stats
- These teams have never played each other before and, with Liverpool FC and Sevilla FC also in the section, will recognise the value of a positive start to the section.
- The Slovenian side are in the group stage for a third time, having previously competed in 1999-2000 and 2014-15. In that latter group appearance, they drew 1-1 at home to both Sporting Clube de Portugal and Chelsea FC and lost 1-0 to FC Schalke 04.
- This is Spartak’s 11th group stage campaign, and a first since 2012-13 when they came fourth in a section also including FC Barcelona, SL Benfica and Celtic FC.
- They have not reached the last 16 since 2000-01 when they reached the second group stage.
- This is Spartak’s first fixture against a Slovenian team.
Futbolgrad Prediction: Maribor vs Spartak Moscow 0-2
Maribor vs Spartak Moscow – Possible Starting Lineups
Handanović – Suler, Mileć, Rajcević, Viler – Vrhovec, Ogrinec, Bohar – Tavares, Bajde Mesanović
Manager: Darko Milanić
Selikhov – Dzhikiya, Bocchetti, Tasci – Pedro Rocha, Pašalić, Fernando, Glushakov, Eshchenko – Luiz Adriano, Promes
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth