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Maribor vs. Sporting Lisbon, 2014 UEFA Champions League: Team news and game preview

Sporting Lisbon are favourites heading into their opening Champions League match away at Maribor.

Ian MacNicol

It has been 15 years since Slovenian champions Maribor were last in the Champions League group stages, but a playoff win over Celtic has ensured the Purples are finally back in the big time. In their opening match they play host to another team back from Champions League exile, with Portugal's Sporting Lisbon having last participated back in 2008-09. However, the Primeira Liga club head into the tournament with a strong squad, and they should have enough to kick off their campaign with a win.

Key player - Nani (Sporting Lisbon)

Sporting's great coup of the summer transfer window was the signing of winger Nani from Manchester United, as part of the deal that saw defender Marcos Rojo heading to the English giants. Nani never achieved a level of consistently high performances at Old Trafford, despite having the talent to become one of the most dangerous wingers on the planet. With more regular football, Sporting will be hoping he'll finally develop into the top class player he once promised.

Key matchup - Sporting Lisbon's wingers vs. Maribor's defence

Unfortunately for Maribor, Nani isn't the only threat they'll face in attack. Just as dangerous will be Peruvian winger André Carrillo, who usually starts out on the right flank. The Peruvian international is direct and blisteringly quick, and will look to bombard the box with crosses for big striker Islam Slimani. He's also got a knack for goalscoring, having netted twice in four games so far this season. Maribor should look to cede no ground in behind their full-backs whatsoever, as Nani and Carrillo could punish them on the counter.

Maribor injuries and suspensions

Out: None. In doubt: None.

Sporting Lisbon injuries and suspensions

Out: Ramy Rabia (stomach). In doubt: Cédric (back).

The good news for Maribor is that they head into the game with a full-strength team available. The bad news is that Sporting are in a pretty healthy position too. Egyptian defender Ramy Rabia is certainly out, having had surgery on a problematic stomach muscle problem, but full-back Cédric could return from a back injury. He's been named in manager Marco Silva's squad.

Match Date/Time: Wednesday, 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Ljudski vrt, Maribor, Slovenia

TV: Sky Sports Red Button (U.K.), SportKlub 1 Slovenia (Slovenia), Sport TV2 (Portugal)

Online: ESPN3 Online-App, Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S.), Sportsnet World Now (Canada), Sky Go (U.K.)

Listings via LiveSoccerTV.