We’re seven weeks into the 2022/23 Prva Liga season and the excitement is beginning to grow. Whether you’re watching one of the big three of Olimpija, Maribor and Mura, or it’s newly-promoted Gorica, the Slovenian Prva Liga is one of the most action-packed football leagues in central Europe.
Here’s all you need to know…
The pitch: It’s competitive, watchable and packed with storylines
Of the 10 teams in the 2022/23 Prva Liga, seven are former champions. In fact, since the 2017/2018 season, there have been four different winners, making it one of the most competitive leagues in Europe.
Thanks to their performances last year, Mura, Olimpija Ljubljana and Koper all qualified for the Europa Conference league, while Maribor ascended to the qualification rounds for the Champions League. Despite failing to qualify for the UCL group stage last time out, Maribor bring huge European pedigree to the league, having qualified in previous years, winning the 2006 Intertoto Cup.
If you’re a football fanatic, watching the Prva Liga won’t even disrupt your weekend schedule. The first game of a new matchday always takes place on a Friday afternoon – often followed by a big Friday night fixture.
What better way to start the weekend?
What’s more, while most of Europe shuts down for the World Cup, the action in Slovenia keeps on going. You’ll be able to catch matches into the middle of December (11th, to be exact), when the winter break kicks in.
The big story: What’s happened to Maribor?
Reigning champions Maribor breezed to last season’s title with 70 points. They scored the joint-most goals and conceded the second-fewest, winning their 16th Slovenian championship – more than any other club.
But this season, they sit in 7th place after seven games, losing four times and wining just twice (their second win came last weekend). They’ve conceded 14 goals, more than any other team in the league and the same as the top three teams combined. It’s an alarming and drastic change of form that has many fans worried about the prospect of a relegation battle.
The team to beat: Olimpija Ljubljana
Until this weekend, Olimpija Ljubljana had not conceded a single goal, let alone suffer defeat. In fact, after seven matches, the team from the capital city have not dropped a single point.
They sit six points clear at the top of the Prva Liga with 21 points – having scored 12 and conceded just once: a 95th minute penalty consolation against Radomlje, their weekend opponents. Only Koper have scored more goals in the Prva Liga so far this season, with 13.
— Prva liga Telemach (@PrvaLigaSi) August 28, 2022
As an attacking force, they’re highly efficient. Their average goals per game of 1.71 is marginally higher than their xG per game at 1.67, and their shot conversion rate sits around 14%. They tend to edge the share of possession in their games (averaging around 54%), meaning they’re content to soak up pressure when needed, but punish when the opportunities present themselves.
Having failed to qualify for the Europa Conference League, Ljubljana are totally focused on the Prva Liga. Watching how they manage the pressure that inevitably builds with such a strong winning streak, and whether they can bounce back when defeat comes, will be very interesting as the season develops.
The player to watch: Andrej Kotnik
Chasing Ljubljana in second place are Koper. They boast the league’s top scorer, midfielder Andrej Kotnik, who’s bagged six goals so far this season.
If he continues on his current scoring rate, he’ll have 30 by the end of the season – 13 more than last years’ golden boot winner.
An honourable mention should go to Ljubljana’s current top scorer Mustafa Nukic. He picked up 12 goals and five assists last season, and if Ljubljana are to go all the way, he’ll be getting similar numbers.
Od 25. minute dalje vodimo v Stožicah. pic.twitter.com/xAtOVlO9Db
— NK Olimpija Ljubljana (@nkolimpija) August 27, 2022
Dive right in: What’s on this weekend?
The game of the weekend sees second-placed Koper host third-placed Celje, who will be looking to close the gap between them to just three points. Celje have lost just one game all season and have looked defensively resolute, if only to be found wanting in front of goal.
Elsewhere, reigning champions Maribor face Tabor Senzana, who narrowly avoided relegation last year by winning their playoff game.
The league leaders host fifth-placed Domzale on Sunday.