Seeded side, and champions Spartak Moscow, are unfancied in the group but will start with a match away to Maribor on Wednesday in Group E of the UEFA Champions League.
Ljudski Vrt , Maribor, Slovenia
Key Stat: Maribor's last group stage win came back in 1999 against Dynamo Kiev.
Expert Verdict: Spartak Moscow come into this group as the team that is seeded, yet many believe that they will be doing well to finish in the top two ahead of one of Liverpool and Sevilla. In order for them to do that, they must get three points from each of their two matches with Maribor, or you would think they would be out of luck already. Maribor aren't a bad side, and the home match will present a tough obstacle for Spartak, but the Russian champions should have the edge and be able to win it in the end.
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Darko Milanic will be missing injured striker duo Luka Zahovic and Dare Vrsic here due to injuries.
To get to the stage of the competition, Maribor had to go through two qualifying rounds and play four matches. In those four matches, they got four key goals from Brazilian Marcos Tavares to help send them on their way. The 33 year old veteran has also scored two goals in the league, showing he is in good form and capable of doing damage in this competition.
Maribor's only loss since their season opened back in July was away to Hapoel Beer Sheva in the playoff qualifiers. They overcame them at home, however, like they have so many teams. Most recently, they won 0-3 away to Tabor Sezana in the Cup and then drew 0-0 against Celje at home in the league.
Defenders:Milec, Rajcevic, Suler, Viler
Attacking Midfielders:Bajde, Marcos Tavares, Bohar
Massimo Carrera will be without defensive midfielder Artem Timofeev, center midfielder Roman Zobnin, and forward Ze Luis due to injuries.
Quincy Promes has been one of the few players that are actually playing well for the defending Russian champions. The Dutchman scored to give them victory over Rubin on Friday, and he increased his tally to two goals- with three assists- while doing so.
Spartak have not been in sparkling form of late, only winning two of their last six matches. They drew 0-0 against SKA Khabarovsk before winning 1-0 on Friday at home to Rubin Kazan.
Defenders:Kutepov, Boccehetti, Jikia
Midfielders:Eschchenko, Glushakov, Fernando, Popov, Kombarov
Forwards:Promes, Luiz Adriano
Spartak Moscow will face Maribor for the very first time on Wednesday night.
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Maribor are at 7/2 to win, a draw is at 5/2, and a Spartak Moscow win is at 4/5.
Spartak Moscow would perhaps be bigger favorites heading into this tie if they had been playing well of late. However, they have not looked very good and are looking like they could fall out of the top four or five in Russia if they don't turn it around.
Because of that, you lose a lot of confidence in them for this match. Even still, it's going to be very difficult for Maribor, who just about held on against Israeli side Hapoel back in the playoff round last month. This is a huge step up in competition, and even being at home might not help.
With this group being so difficult, these two sides need points and wins here and now to help lock up either a top two slot or the Europa League place that comes with third.
Spartak is at 11/5 with a -1 handicap.
Spartak Moscow start well in the Champions League but will face much harder tasks in later rounds.
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