Football: Maribor aim to claim another scalp

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The Independent Online
NK MARIBOR, of Slovenia, will be without three key players when they confront Germany's Bayer Leverkusen in their Group A Champions' League match tonight.

However, despite the absences of the midfielder Dalibor Filipovic and the forward Marinko Sarkezi through injury and the defender Amir Karic through suspension, Maribor remain optimistic, having won all seven of their domestic league games this season.

"I am happy with our performances and results. At the same time I am sad because we lost two key players - Filipovic and Sarkezi - for a long period," the Maribor coach Bojan Prasnikar said. "Their injuries have affected us really badly."

Maribor's 1-0 away win over Dynamo Kiev was the big surprise of the first round and put them in good spirits for the match against Leverkusen, who lead the Bundesliga standings after five games.

"We respect them, but we are not afraid of them just because they are a big name in European football," Prasnikar said.

Leverkusen will be without their Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto, who tore knee ligaments in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Hertha Berlin and will be out of action for up to six weeks. He will be replaced by Stefan Beinlich, who is fit again after a long injury break.

Although Leverkusen are favourites for the match, their forward Ulf Kirsten warned that the Germans should not underestimate the Slovenians. "Their win over Dynamo Kiev has warned us," he said.

The Leverkusen coach, Christoph Daum, was satisfied after his men started their Champions' League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Lazio last week. "That was a good result," he said. "Now we need a win."

n The French World Cup winger, Bernard Diomede, is staying at Auxerre after failing to secure a transfer to a bigger club. There had been speculation that he might join Monaco or Newcastle United.