64 altogether: 32 clubs will be playing in the same groups as the UEFA Champions League, and 32 champions from the countries with the best coefficients will find their way into the UEFA Youth League following a system of elimination. As the Slovenian champions, the violet-clad young hopefuls will begin their path in the first round of qualifications in the Czech Republic, with a match against Sigma from Olomouc.
The U-19 team, coached by Milan Žurman, finished their last training on home ground on Monday morning; on Tuesday, they will be leaving for Olomouc, and the match is scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“As we leave, we hope to play a good match and achieve a good result. The team is sufficiently ready, we have been playing good football throughout the championship, and we are not afraid of a demanding test,” said the coach of the youth team before the greatest challenge of the season so far.
After eight matches in the league championship, our hopefuls are right at the top of the rankings; they won 6 matches, played 1 draw and lost 1 match. Sigma will definitely be a different opponent than their peers on home turf.
“We have watched recordings of their matches, and we are now familiar with their main characteristics. Playing in a strong international tournament in Zagreb during the summer helps us a lot. During these matches, we have seen our advantages and disadvantages when facing stronger opponents from abroad; from what we have seen, Sigma is a team of the same ranking. However, we must also consider the fact that they have several very tall individuals.”
According to the rules of the UYL, the players must be born after January 1, 2000, but the team can also have 3 older players (born in 1999). Luka Koblar, the captain of the U-19 team from the previous season, is the new solution in the stopper position on our list.
“Unfortunately, our team will not be complete; Nick Hanik Horvat is still injured, and Lovro Grajfoner is suspended due to being excluded in the last round of the match we played against Sevilla last year. However, we have enough solutions in all the positions; the other players are as ready as they can be, they are motivated and they want to prove themselves. We are a team that insists on playing aggressively. In European matches, the implementation will depend on the opponent, but I believe that the power of Maribor will be confirmed”, said Žurman before the test awaiting us in Olomouc.
The rematch with Sigma will take place on 24 October. In the second round, the winner will be playing the winner of the match between Anži from Russia and Maccabi Tel Aviv from Israel. In the spring continuation of the competition, the 8 most successful teams will play against the 8 best teams from the group stage in the play-offs, trying to secure a spot in the final tournament in Nyon.