NK Maribor host a Chelsea side that put six goals past them at Stamford Bridge a fortnight back in what was their heaviest defeat in the competition away from home. The Slovenian side are not out of the competition yet as many would have predicted they should be at this stage of the tournament, they can do themselves a massive favor if they can get anything out of this game, which although looks unlikely, cannot be ruled out altogether. The 6-0 hammering aside, the home team has managed to hold the other two games, with the draw against German giants Schalke especially impressive – suggests the Purples will fancy their chances of getting something or anything from Wednesday’s encounter against the leaders.
While Chelsea, still maintained their unbeaten run with the win over neighbors and rivals Queen’s Park Rangers at the weekend, thanks to a second-half penalty that Eden Hazard rolled, into the back of the net, stretching their lead at the summit. The 6-0 win at home, left the London team with seven points, two ahead of FC Schalke 04, with Maribor a further three points adrift in third place. A victory here will all but seal their progression to the knockouts and Jose Mourinho as we know, will want to get things sorted and early.
Ante Simundza, the manager, has a few selection problems to deal with as he will be missing a few players in Rajcevic (head injury), midfielders Agim Ibraimi and Zeljko Filipovic could be out due to an illness and will both need a late fitness test while defender Mejac could miss out on the selection with a hamstring problem.
Loic Remy, who came off in the home game against Maribor with a muscular injury will not travel with the squad as his return to training with the first team is expected after the international weekend. Diego Costa was on the starting line-up against QPR (taken off after 70-odd minutes) and he could be called on to lead the line after successfully recovering from the hamstring problem. John Obi Mikel, who missed the home game against QPR due to a minor knee injury is also reported to be available for team selection. Brazilian midfielder Ramires came on as a substitute during the weekend so he can also be expected to start on Wednesday.
Maribor beat Wigan Athletic FC 2-1 at home in last season’s UEFA Europa League group stage, their only victory in seven games against English sides. Overall their record is W1 D1 L5.
They suffered their first defeat in nine games in this season’s competition at Stamford Bridge, Agim Ibraimi missing a second-half penalty to add to their woes.
The Blues are 15 matches unbeaten in 2014/15, winning 12. They have not lost since April’s UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg defeat at home against Club Atlético de Madrid.
Diego Costa has scored in six of his eight league outings following his summer switch from Atlético, nine goals in all.
Damjan Bohar – NK Maribor
The 23-year old Slovenian midfielder has been one of the better players on an attacking point of view for Simundza’s side in the Champions League with a goal to his name already against Schalke 04 on match-day two. The left sided midfielder has played about 203 minutes of Champions League football, has managed to score with his only shot on goal, creating 4 clear cut chances. With a passing success rate of 83% and an average pass length of 15m, Bohar has come across as a youngster that is confident in his ability, unfazed of the opposition. Having scored one of the two goals the team has managed in this campaign, it is a no-brainer that the gaffer will rely on the 23-year old to keep the momentum going, if they are to have any chance of getting something out of this game.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Blessed with one of the strongest squads in European football, Chelsea possess arguably one of the best players/playmakers in the world in the shape of 23-year old Eden Hazard. The Belgian has had a sensational start to his season on a personal level, he’s been among the goals, assists, vines and what not? Hazard, in 3 appearances in the Champions League so far has found the back of the net twice while creating one – also boasts a commendable shot accuracy of 75%. He’s created 5 other chances from open play with an incredible 6.3 dribbles per game. His passing has been a bit erratic as the statistic suggests – with an ordinary 78% success in finding a blue shirt, but that could be forgiven if the Belgian can keep scoring vital goals in crunch situations. If Eden Hazard goes about on his business come Wednesday, then there’s every chance of a repeat of the 6-0 scoreline.
NK Maribor are coming off the back of a 1-0 defeat at home, low on morale against a team that is unbeaten in all competitions, looking to get the job done. A comfortable away win is all I could see.