With the break in club competitions and the team being hard at work for the upcoming challenges, this is the perfect time to evaluate the current state of affairs with our Sports Director.
“The coaching staff and the players have been brilliant. They are a true phenomenon. They’ve demonstrated their human qualities. They are amazing, both as footballers and as human beings, who sometimes, understandably, become tired and experience a drop in performance. But all in all, the season so far has been positive,” said Zlatko Zahovič.
We’ve played 20 matches so far. Eleven of those were league games, one was a cup tie and the remaining eight were played in European competitions. We’ve had to put in a lot of energy, but our hard work has paid off: we’ve managed to win 12 of those 20 matches, drawing 6 and losing only 2.
“The break was a great opportunity for the guys to catch their breath and recharge their batteries. They carry a big load on their shoulders and we are proud of how they’ve been dealing with the demands. We are aware of how much physical and mental strain they’ve been under. You can’t win every game, and they have our absolute support as far as that is concerned. There’s no doubt our performance in Seville was subpar, despite all the quality. We’ve come through demanding qualifiers, which have taken a big toll, both emotionally and physically. But I would give our season so far a positive grade and I’m certain we’ll get our energy back during the break. We’re coming into a very different part of the year. In October, November and December, the conditions are much tougher because of the weather. But we know we have a big squad and the ability to get the most out of every match, regardless of the circumstances.”
When all of our international players return, it’s time to prepare for a new chapter, which will begin with a league game in Velenje.
“The first match after the break is always the hardest for big clubs, who are accustomed to winning, which Maribor undoubtedly is. The players get back from their national teams, where things are a bit different. When you analyse the performances of the clubs with a lot of international players and who are expected to win most of their games, you see that the first match after the break is always the toughest. You’re faced with the dilemma, whether to play the players, who have been training hard with the club all this time, or whether to field players who were away on international duty. This is one of the toughest decisions a coach has to make and our coach has a lot of experience with this sort of things. During the international break, we had to train without eight of our players, which is always a big challenge. But I believe that our coach, the players and the staff will be fine. Until now, we’ve been winning the toughest matches. And the match in Velenje definitely falls into this category. We’ll undoubtedly face some problems during the match, but thanks to our experience, I think we’ll get a good result. Having an international break is good for boosting your energy, but it also makes it very hard to get back in the rhythm of club competitions. So we must be very careful ahead of the game in Velenje, where I’m only interested in a good result, not how we achieve it. I want us to play to win. That’s the Maribor way.”
We’ll be facing a number of milestones in October. After the match in Velenje, it’s time for Champions League football and the spectacle against Liverpool in front of a packed Ljudski vrt.
“The Champions League is our reality. There’s still enough time ahead of Liverpool. We’re not thinking about them yet. At the moment, we’re only focused on Rudar.”