By Martin Pavcnik
After a fascinating 2004, Slovenian football is taking a well-earned break - and with the league in hiatus until 3 March the focus is switching to the opening of the transfer window and national team preparations.
Gorica sitting pretty
Reigning champions NK Gorica, ten points clear, are unsurprisingly happy with their current squad. However, the team they beat to last season's title by only a single point, NK Olimpija Ljubljana, are making changes.
In third place and eleven points adrift of Gorica, new Olimpija president Borut Gabrsek is likely to have to deal with the departure of key players, including Anton Zlogar, Branko Ilic, Aleksandar Popovic, Fausto Budicin and Enes Handanagic.
Ceh departs Maribor
A similar problem faces seven-time champions NK Maribor - who blew the title on the last day of 2003/04 and now lie fifth, in danger of missing out on the six-team championship group with five games to go before the table splits. Their bid is not helped by the new that former Slovenia captain Ales Ceh is leaving to return to Austria with LASK Linz, where he will link up with another former international, Zeljko Milinovic.
On the international front, Slovenia are again performing admirably, standing third in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 5, only two points behind leaders Italy, who they defeated in October. National coach Branko Oblak has taken the innovative step of forming a B-team, and has named a mixture of domestic talents and old faces for the Torneio Internacional Vale do Tejo in Portugal later this month.
Rodic links up
Among the squad is 25-year-old Gorica striker Aleksandar Rodic, who has been cleared to play for Slovenia after receiving a passport in December, having been eligible for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Slovenia begin their campaign on 18 January against Slovakia, and two days later will meet either Portugal or Bulgaria. The first team have friendlies coming up with Czech Republic on 9 February and then Germany on 26 March, four days before the next qualifier against Belarus.
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