Football fans are in for a thrilling encounter as Maribor and Birkirkara face off at Ljudski vrt in the first qualifying round first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League on Thursday (July 13). Both teams are eager to make their mark in the competition and secure a spot in the next round.
Maribor enters the match on a positive note, boasting an impressive unbeaten streak of five games, all of which were friendlies. Furthermore, they have not suffered a defeat in their recent home fixtures. Last season marked Maribor’s first foray into the UEFA Europa Conference League, where they reached the playoff round but were unable to progress further.
Securing a third-place finish in the Slovenian PrvaLiga last season, Maribor earned their qualification for the Europa Conference League. However, they will face the challenge of missing two key defenders, Gregor Sikosek and Ignacio Guerrico, due to knee injuries. On a positive note, Maribor has made significant reinforcements to their squad, signing 11 new players. Among them is Brazilian striker Marcos Tavares, who will assume the crucial centre-forward role.
Birkirkara, on the other hand, has played two warm-up games to prepare for their continental campaign, experiencing a 4-0 loss against Gzira United and a 2-0 defeat against Hamrun Spartans. The visitors made it to the second qualifying round of the 2021-22 Conference League but failed to qualify last season. They are making their return to European competition due to their second-place finish in the 2022-23 Maltese Premier League.
The last meeting between Maribor and Birkirkara took place in the UEFA Champions League back in 2013, with Maribor emerging victorious with a 2-0 win. Birkirkara will be seeking revenge at Ljudski vrt, but Maribor will likely take confidence from their previous success. Birkirkara has only managed one victory in their last five away games, adding to the challenge they face.
Maribor players dominated the charts in the previous season, with Zan Vipotnik finishing as the top scorer with an impressive tally of 20 goals. Additionally, Marko Tolic and Rok Kronaveter contributed significantly to Maribor’s success, delivering 14 and 11 assists respectively.
For Birkirkara, Argentine striker Enzo Daniel Cabrera will aim to maintain his brilliant form from the previous season, where he netted 13 goals. Italian goalkeeper Giacomo Nava was also a standout performer, keeping a commendable seven clean sheets.
Maribor’s home advantage and strong performances make them the favorites in this encounter. However, Birkirkara will be determined to challenge their opponents and secure a positive result.
Maribor vs Birkirkara Head-to-Head and Key Numbers
- Their first meeting ended goalless, while Maribor won the second.
- Maribor have won four times and drawn once in their last five home games.
- Maribor have scored 15 goals and conceded four in their last five games.
- Birkirkara have won once, drawn twice and lost twice in their last five road outings.
- Maribor have won twice and drawn thrice in their last five games, while Birkirkara have won twice and lost thrice in the same period:
- Last five games: Maribor: W-D-D-W-D; Birkirkara: L-L-W-W-L