Thursday, 14 July 2016

NK Maribor vs Levski Sofia Europa League Match Preview And Prediction - July 15, 2016

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Maribor have only lost 1 of their last 8 home games in Europe. They've played the likes of Chelsea, Sevilla, Sporting and Schalke over that period. Both teams have scored in 10 of Maribor's last 11 competitive matches. Levski have lost their last 6 away games in this competition.

Maribor could hand a debut to Nigerian midfielder Sunny Ogbemudia.Levski have done well in their friendlies so Ljupko Petrović isn't likely to make radical changes.

This should be a really competitive tie between two sides who at least have a shot at progressing as far as the group stage and home advantage is likely to be key.

Maribor have played in Europe almost every single season since Slovenian independence in the early 1990’s so they are no stranger to the European stage. They qualified for the Champions League group phase only two seasons ago but come into this game having missed out on the Slovenian title last year, a relative rarity for them. They’ve played 5 friendlies in preparation for this game though so they can’t be accused of not taking the Europa League seriously, the most recent of which was a 0-0 draw with Celtic last week.

Levski Sofia have been crowned champions of Bulgaria on 26 occasions but not since 2009 so they are going through a bit of a barren spell. They were also runners up in their league last year but were a distant 2nd in truth with Ludogorets Razgrad cruising to the title with a 14 point margin. Levski last played in Europe 3 seasons ago when they were surprisingly sent packing by Kazakh minnows Irtysh in the 1st Qualifying Round of the Europa League.

They ought to be much more competitive this time around. They’ve played 3 friendlies ahead of this against Bulgarian sides and won them all but they did concede in two. Defence is usually their forte but it’s hard to see them shutting Maribor out. They were top scorers in Slovenia last year, averaging over 2 goals scored per game but they aren’t an impossible side to break down. Levski will fancy they can nick a crucial away goal here but the Slovenians have a bit of extra quality and European experience so backing Maribor to win 2-1 at 8/1 looks to offer good value here.

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