NK Maribor and FC Spartak Moskva will be keen to hit the ground running when they meet in the opening round of fixtures in Group E.

• 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.

Match background

• 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.

• Maribor qualified for this season’s UEFA Champions League by winning a sixth Slovenian title in seven seasons in 2016/17. In Europe last term, they beat PFC Levski Sofia and Aberdeen FC before losing to Gabala SC in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.

• Maribor reached the current group stage by overcoming HŠK Zrinjski of Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-2 on aggregate in the second qualifying round (2-1 away, 1-1 home) and Iceland’s FH Hafnarfjördur in the next round (1-0 home, 1-0 away). In the play-offs they went down 2-1 at Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC in the first leg but progressed on away goals thanks to a 1-0 home success.

• Maribor are unbeaten in seven European home matches (W5 D2). In fact, they have lost only two of their last 12 games, home and away (W6 D4).

• The only previous time Maribor entertained Russian visitors, they crashed 5-2 against FC Rubin Kazan in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League group stage. The teams drew 1-1 in Russia.

• 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 graced the last 16 since 2000/01, when they reached the second group stage.

• On each of their last two group stage appearances, in 2010/11 and 2012/13, Spartak lost two home games and won the other.

• The Moscow club qualified automatically for the group stage by lifting their 22nd league title in 2016/17. Last term, their European campaign ended at the first hurdle, with defeat by AEK Larnaca FC in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.

• Spartak are without a win in their last seven European matches, home and away, since a 2-1 victory over Benfica on 23 October 2012. Their record since then is D2 L5.

• Furthermore, Spartak have not won away since a 1-0 success at AFC Ajax in their 2010/11 UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg. Their record since is D4 L4.

• This is Spartak’s first fixture against a Slovenian team.

Coach and player links
• Marko Šuler played all 180 minutes in the 2010 FIFA World Cup play-offs as Slovenia lost 2-1 in Russia before securing a 1-0 home success in the second leg to qualify for the finals.

Match facts

• The 2-1 first-leg loss to Beer-Sheva last month is Maribor’s only defeat in their last 15 games in all competitions.*

• Maribor have 17 points from seven league matches (W5 D2) this season, six more than they had at the same stage last term.*

• Massimo Carrera’s side lifted the Russian Super Cup on 14 July, defeating FC Lokomotiv Moskva 2-1 after extra time.

• Spartak have nine points from eight league fixtures – ten fewer than they had at the same stage in 2016/17.*

• The Red-Whites have conceded 13 goals in the 2017/18 Russian Premier-Liga. They did not ship as many last term until the 17th round of matches.*

*Subject to weekend updates

Source link