Nov 26 2010

Zilina v Trnava Preview

Published by at 11:11 pm under Domestic and tagged: , , ,

There are a couple of big games this weekend, I know I say it a lot, but in a league containing only 12 teams interesting games do come around quite often.  Kosice have hammered Presov 4-0 this afternoon in the derby of the East, those 2 are now level on points, but luckily for both of them, Dubnica seem to be slipping away at the bottom.

At the top, as discussed by James Baxter in this excellent preview piece, Zilina face Trnava in a clash which may go a long way towards telling how interesting the 2nd half of the season will be.  Fireworks are virtually guaranteed off the pitch, but will we be lucky and see some on it too?  Enjoy!

In Autumn 2008, MŠK Žilina coach Dušan Radolský was attempting to balance domestic and European demands. His team was in a battle with Slovan Bratislava for leadership of the Corgoň Liga, as well as appearing alongside Slavia Prague and three former European Champions (SV Hamburg, Ajax Amsterdam and Aston Villa) in the UEFA Cup group stage. Radolský’s Žilina were competitive, and occasionally inspired, in Europe. They ran Hamburg and Ajax close and pulled off a stunning 2-1 win at Villa Park. Domestically, though, a late November six-pointer at Tehelné pole was lost, ensuring that Slovan would go into the winter as Slovak league top-dogs

Two years on and Pavel Hapal, Radolský’s successor, is  in a largely similar situation. But, while Hapal’s team have often looked out of their depth in the Champions League, the coach has, last Friday’s defeat away to Senica excepted, proved able to lift them sufficiently for Slovak league games. Whatever happens in this weekend’s final round of fixtures, Žilina will spend this winter at the top of the domestic table.

Comparisons between Radolský and Hapal will come into sharper focus this Sunday as Radolský, sacked by Žilina in the spring of 2009 as it became clear that Slovan were not going to be caught at the top of the league, brings his current charges, Spartak Trnava, to the Štadión pod Dubňom. It should be an interesting occasion. Radolský has more than once expressed a belief that his dismissal by MŠK was premature. He will insist that revenge will not be a motivation for him on Sunday but he will certainly have Trnava fired up. The visitors will be well-backed off the field too ; it won’t be a surprise if their fans fill the pod Dubňom’s away section. And, while Žilina’s top-of-the-table position is safe for the next three months, a home defeat would cut the gap between them and Trnava to five points. That would represent not only a significant loss of momentum for Žilina but also a renewal of Trnava’s own hopes of making a serious championship challenge come 2011.

From a Žilina point of view, a lot will depend on how much they still have to give following their latest Champions League defeat, at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. Their performance in that game was one to feel positive about. They defended bravely and diligently and, in the first half at least, were both attractive and effective going forward. If a better-worked goal than Bello’s is scored anywhere this season, I’d love to see it. The result was still a defeat, though, and the players will have to overcome what would be an entirely understandable sense of deflation before facing Trnava. If they are still feeling sorry for themselves come Sunday, I sense that Trnava might well be equipped to take advantage.

As far as Žilina’s team selection goes, if bodies and minds are in good order, I would play the same starting line-up as the one which appeared at Chelsea. I rather like the 4-1-4-1. Guldan has settled nicely into the holding midfield role and his performances there are starting to stand comparison with those of former captain Zdeno Štrba. Jež and Bello play with freedom when Guldan (or someone like him) is behind them and their attacking inclinations mean that Tomáš Oravec gets good support up front. The one reservation I have over the formation is that it doesn’t bring out the best in Tomáš Majtán. Majtán has many qualities but, if played as a wide midfielder, he lacks a trick to get him past a tight marking full-back. At Stamford Bridge, a large part of his role was defensive so that didn’t matter too much. Against Trnava, more attacking inspiration will be needed from whoever plays down the flanks.

In late August, when Sparta Prague had been defeated to ensure Žilina’s passage to the Champions League proper, it would have been impossible to write a paragraph based entirely on the MŠK team which did not feature the name Momodou Ceesay. Just three months later, few would argue that the Gambian is even close to deserving a place in the side. He seems to have lost his touch, his strength, even, alarmingly, his motivation. When Oravec came off on Tuesday night, having struggled to get hold of the ball as Chelsea staged a second-half recovery, I was hopeful that Ceesay, the substitute, might show some signs of his remarkable late summer form. All he did was make you wish Oravec could come back on. Whatever Ceesay needs, whether it’s winter sunshine or extra training, I hope he will get it over the next two or three months and return to action in February rejuvenated. Meanwhile, I’d be surprised if much is seen of him this Sunday.

I’m not familiar enough with the Trnava team to discuss their likely line-up or tactics. They didn’t impress very much when I saw them draw 0-0 with Zlaté Moravce last month and their recent record at Žilina is poor. The last time they visited, in April, a truly abject display saw them lose 5-1. But none of that should be taken as a guide. With Radolský in the away dug-out and plenty for both sides to play for, I’ve a feeling that Sunday’s game could be one of the best of the season so far.


2 responses so far




2 Responses to “Zilina v Trnava Preview”

  1.   britskibelasion 26 Nov 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Great preview, thanks James! This will be a top match that’s for sure. Off the field the atmosphere will be fantastic (especially in the away end – your friends from Trnava ;-)

    On it, as you describe, there are a lot of interesting factors. This really is the time for Trnava to stand up and be counted. The betting man in me will probably be sticking with Zilina, pretty sure they’ve got too much quality for Trnava. However I do agree, if the home side get off to a slow start and Trnava nick an early goal and get their tails up with the red fireworks behind the goal – anything could happen and odds of 6.50 on an away win certainly are tempting!

    We’ll see what happens – is the match being televised?

    First of all, let’s see what happens at Slovan. Just got a feeling this time it will work against Senica – something to stir things up ahead of the break, surely they can’t draw a nil at home again?!

  2.   James Baxteron 27 Nov 2010 at 11:58 am

    It’s on Digisport – accessible to about 200,000 people in Sk! Don’t know if http://www.huste.sk is available abroad but they do live feeds.

    The odds are ridiculous. Yes, Zilina are favourites but Trnava have plenty going for them ; Radolsky, relative freshness, support… I’ll be surprised if it isn’t a very close game.

    A Slovan win would actually suit Zilina, Senica being the second-placed side, and I agree with you ; it’s time for Slovan to hit some form. I know we’ve said it before but this time it’s really going to happen.

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