Slovenian club NK Maribor is all set to make an appearance in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage once again, after a gap of 15 years, as they gear up to face Sporting Lisbon at the Ljudski vrt Stadium in Maribor, Slovenia.
Where to Watch Live
NK Maribor vs. Sporting Lisbon is set for a 7.45 pm BST (12.15 am IST,) start with live coverage on Ten Sports in India. The match can also be watched via live streaming online in India HERE. Catch the action in the UK on Sky Sports Red Button, Sky Go and Sky Go Extra, with the option to live stream the match online HERE.
Viewers in the US can watch the Champions League game on Fox Soccer Plus and ESPN3, with an option to live stream HERE. Audience in the Middle East and North Africa can catch the action via live streaming HERE, while South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa viewers can do the same HERE.
It is imperative for both the clubs to get as many points out of this fixture, as Group G, in which they have been pitted, also contains English and German giants Chelsea and Schalke respectively. The Premier League and Bundesliga teams are the two outright favourites to qualify for the round of 16 in the Champions League.
Maribor are making their first appearance in the competition proper for in 15 years, while Sporting Lisbon are doing the same for the first time in five years.
It is hugely expected that Maribor and Sporting would lose out to the experience that Chelsea and Schalke have in the competition. Hence, it is very important that these two sides get as many points out of their games against each other, in order to progress forward, if not to the Champions League last 16, then at least to the Europa League, via a third-place finish in the group.
However, it is the Portuguese side, Sporting, who would be expected to take the initiative from the start of the match. Maribor are rank outsiders, and would be looking to hit the Lisbon-based team on the counter, an area where the latter could be vulnerable.
"Sporting have a lot of attacking strength, like any Portuguese side, but you have to expect that in this competition," said Maribor head coach Ante Simundza, to UEFA's official website. "All the teams are strong – very strong. They have their weaknesses too, but I will keep those to myself. They will certainly be under pressure to get a result, and I am sure the match will be decided by small details on both sides."
Interestingly, Simundza himself was present in the Maribor side that made it to the Champions League proper in the 1999-2000 season. However, he is not too keen to draw a comparison between the two Maribor sides.
"I played in the UEFA Champions League and now I am a coach in this competition, but the only common point is Maribor," said Simundza. "I don't like to compare the past with the present; it was 15 years ago that I played in this competition."
Maribor, who have won three of their last six matches, would be looking to build on this decent form to get some points off Sporting, who seem to be in a bad stretch of form, as they have managed only one win and three draws in their last four games.
The Sporting midfield seems to be lacking creativity at the moment, and even their newest acquisition, Nani from Manchester United, has not been influential enough to drive the team forward.
As they have substantially more experienced players than the Slovenian outfit, this match, against an inexperienced Maribor, could be just what they needed to get their season back on track.
"We also learned a lot from our recent matches – some mistakes should not be repeated here," said Sporting head coach Marco Silva, who makes his Champions League managerial debut on Wednesday night. "It is obvious we have only four players with a lot of international experience here, but we need to start the match patiently.
"This patience and efficiency is what we've lacked in recent games."