Stripes target historic place in third round

bkara-maribor130716DABirkirkara will be all out to claim a positive result in Slovenia as they take on NK Maribor in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round at the Stadion Ljudski vrt in Maribor, kick-off at 20:00.

The goalless draw in the first leg leaves the qualification issue open wide with a draw with goals being enough for the Stripes to be the first team to reach the third round of a UEFA competition.

Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina

With a goalless draw, the match would go in extra-time.

Coach Paul Zammit is not expected to make much changes from the team which played an excellent match in the first leg. However Zammit may opt to start with Demba Toure who was included as a substitute last week.

The Stripes have been taking part in UEFA competitions uninterruptedly since 1997/98. They reached a second round twice. In the UEFA Cup 2001/02, they eliminated FC Lokomotiv Tbilisi following a goalless draw at Ta’ Qali an a 1-1 draw in Tbilisi to qualify on the away goals rule. In 2010/11, they eliminated FC Santa Coloma of Andorra in the UEFA Champions League, thanks to a 3-0 win by default in Andorra and a 4-3 win at the Centenary Stadium.

Meanwhile Maribor will be all out to win the game in order to reach the next stage.

Over the past two years, they made it to the group stage of the UEFA Europa League twice. In 2011/12, they eliminated F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg in the qualifying round of the UEFA CHampions League. They lost to Maccabi Haifa of Israel in the third qualifying round but in the fourth qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League, they eliminated Glasgow Rangers to reach the group stage.

In 2012/13, they eliminated Zeljeznicar Sarajevo of Bosnia and F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg in the second and third qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa League, losing to Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia in the fourth qualifying round. However they still made it to the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

In season 1999/2000, Maribor even reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League after eliminating Genk of Belgium and Olympique Lyon of France.

The season in Slovenia kicked-off earlier this month. After defeating NK Zavrč 2-1 in the first league match, Maribor played their second league match on Saturday, defeating NK Rudar Velenje 3-0 away from home. Maribor are the only team with maximum points after playing two matches.

The winner of this clash will be facing APOEL FC of Cyprus in the third round. The first leg will be played in Nicosia on July 30 or 31 with the return match scheduled for August 6 or 7.