The Slovene First League is already shaping up with ominous familiarity after reigning champions NK Maribor began the 2012/13 season with a commanding 3-1 victory against ND Gorica, while Ermin Šiljak endured a humbling introduction to management as NK Olimpija Ljubljana suffered a shock home defeat by ND Domžale.
Ten-time league champions, Maribor have established themselves as Slovenia's most eminent club. The formula for this feat is relatively simple and evidence that continuity really does breed success. Coach Darko Milanič and sporting director Zlatko Zahovič were members of Solvenia's 'golden generation' and ignited a formidable partnership in 2007. Financially studious, their emphasis on home-grown talent has reaped handsome rewards, culminating in a domestic double last season.
Persistently trusting their youthful ranks, several Maribor players have seized the opportunity to showcase their abilities. Their forward Etien Velikonja, 23, became the latest talent to earn a lucrative move abroad, putting pen to paper on a four-year contract with Cardiff City FC, who play in England's second tier.
There may be no love lost between Maribor and Olimpija, though imitation is supposedly the sincerest form of flattery. Team-mates in the mid-1990s, new coach Šiljak and sporting director Milenko Ačimovič have been tasked with rekindling the capital club's proud history and surpassing last season's second-placed finish.
Standing in their way are good friends who will soon become familiar foes. Šiljak and Ačimovič both featured alongside Milanič and Zahovič in Slovenia's first major international tournament at UEFA EURO 2000 and amassed a total of 224 caps between them. Now they are vying for individual glory and come face-to-face in the season's inaugural eternal derby on 11 August in Ljubljana.
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