Apr 02 2012

MSK Zilina v SK Slovan Bratislava: Preview

Published by at 12:03 pm under Domestic

It would be wrong to see Žilina v Slovan on Tuesday evening as a title-decider. If it ends in a draw, Trnava will be level on points at the top of the table if they do what‘s expected of them and defeat Prešov at home. It has the feel of a big game, though, big enough, perhaps, to justify a preview of its own.

The Coaches

Žilina’s Ľubomír Nosický looks and sounds innocuous but his efforts in steering the side to the top of the league, having been appointed just two days before the start of the season, should not be underestimated. He varied his formation quite a lot during the autumn but has largely stuck to a 4-1-3-2 formation this spring. His 2,000-odd assistants in the stands have not been convinced by all his decisions but he will rise in their estimation if he can put one over on Vladimír Weiss.

Weiss has kept Slovan on a steady course in the league since a run of four games without a goal in late summer. Over the winter, he brought in several players who know the Slovak football scene well, including three (Mario Pečalka, Kamil Kopúnek and Juraj Piroška) with national team experience. He has tended to favour a 4-3-3 formation this spring. That should provide an interesting contrast with Nosický’s tactics, though a more prominent thought in the minds of home fans will be that Weiss tends to relish the opportunity to outsmart a Žilina coach on big occasions such as this.

The Goalkeepers

Martin Dúbravka is a long-term absentee from the Žilina side but his stand-in, Martin Krnáč, is a highly capable shot-stopper and good at claiming high crosses. His one minor weakness appears to be a tendency to hesitate over whether to come off his line to gather through balls.

I used to be unconvinced by Slovan ‘keeper Matúš Putnocký, mostly because he had a poor game – and cost his side victory – in the July 2010 meeting between the sides. But he has consistently shown since then that he is a fine young prospect.

Žilina Defence v Slovan Attack

Given that four different nationalities are represented in the Žilina back-four, you might have expected one or two communication problems. But the worst of their ‘that’s mine, no it’s yours, oh shit it’s theirs‘ moments appear to have been left behind in the winter friendly games. Overall, it’s a fairly solid unit and the full-backs, Ernest Mabouka and Ricardo Nunez, offer plenty of attacking threat.

The Slovan forwards, however, could cause all manner of problems. Firstly, there is Ondřej Smetana, scorer of five goals in six spring fixtures thus far. Lean, strong and measuring 6ft 6ins, bullying him out of the game will not be an option. Žilina will need to keep corners and free-kicks to a minimum to reduce his heading opportunities. They may also try to push high up the field, so that his knock-downs fall into relatively harmless areas. But then, they’ll have to be wary of Juraj Halenár, who is quick, clever at timing his runs, and seems to love playing in this fixture.

The Midfields

The emphasis in Žilina’s midfield is very much on pass and move. The key to their game tends to be Viktor Pečovský, the deepest-lying of the quartet. He positions himself just in front of his centre-backs when the opposition have the ball and often drops between them to start his own team’s attacks. Further forward, Miroslav Barčík and Róbert Pich like to come in off the wings. This is partly to open up space for Mabouka and Nunez, but Weiss will definitely have warned his team about Pich’s taste for right-foot shots from the inside-left channel. More centrally, Issiaka Bello, who has not been at his best since his long-term injury last autumn, will need to have a good game.

For Slovan, Kopúnek and Jiŕí Kladrubský are likely to operate as holding midfielders. Both are solid, energetic and pass the ball simply and accurately. Either Erik Grendel or Marko Milinković, both of whom are technically accomplished footballers, will be asked to provide more creativity.

Žilina Attack v Slovan Defence

Slovan could win this game by taking the aerial route but there‘s little chance of Žilina doing so without the injured Momodou Ceesay. Still, Tomáš Majtán is a willing runner and can hold the ball up in the channels, while Ján Novák is a more elusive type.

How Slovan cope with Žilina’s movement up-front largely depends on who they pick to play in central-defence. My sense is that Mario Pečalka and Peter Janošík, the pair fielded against Senica on Friday, would do a better job than Radek Dosoudil and Marián Had, who prefer playing against bigger, physical strikers. Like the hosts, Slovan can call upon excellent attacking full-backs, in their case Mamadou Bagayoko and Lukáš Pauschek. The latter missed the Senica game, however, and Žilina might fancy their chances if his replacement, Kristián Kolčák, has to step in again.


The optimist in me believes that Žilina play the more attractive football and will come out on top. The pessimist believes Slovan have a better all-round balance and can vary their tactics where necessary. Even without the injured Igor Žofčák, they have, in Grendel, Milinković and Halenár, three of the most skillful players in the league. If none of these quite come off, there is Smetana, with his physique and power in the air. Then there is Weiss, far more experienced at organising sides for big games than Nosický. I think – and Trnava will hope – that it will be a draw.

James Baxter

19 responses so far

19 Responses to “MSK Zilina v SK Slovan Bratislava: Preview”

  1.   StaryPedanton 03 Apr 2012 at 9:35 am

    Read. One thing. Smetana has scored five in six LEAGUE fixtures. Played in both cup ties v Senica, without making the onion bag bulge. Might even get a stream up for this one. Come on you Sosoni!

  2.   britskibelasion 03 Apr 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Smetana has certainly proved me wrong. Well a couple of goals tonight would reaffirm that.
    Not sure what’s going to happen around Pecalka, I’d love to watch it too, let’s see if there are any streams around.

    ps anyone else think this change to golbox has got rid of George? Here’s hoping ;-)

  3.   Jameson 03 Apr 2012 at 1:43 pm

    ‘Smetana has scored five in six LEAGUE fixtures.’ Point taken – keep forgetting the Slovak Cup.

    No Pecovsky for Zilina. I’m now very pessimistic. The refs are Czech, hope that’ll play a part in keeping everyone calm.

  4.   britskibelasion 03 Apr 2012 at 2:27 pm

    enjoy the game James, seems like you need your faith boosting – i’m sure a good win would see to that ;-)

    Slovan do toho!

  5.   StaryJazvecon 03 Apr 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Huste.sk unwatchable, just keeps sticking. Pity.

  6.   StaryJazvecon 03 Apr 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Picking up something thru the fog, dull as, so far.

    Anyway just reading about that nutbag who whacked the lino in the corresponding fixture last season. He’s renewed his season ticket and as far as I can make out, he got off scot-free. Full of remorse? Not a bit of it, apparently, quoted as saying he believes the lino will not turn up at Zilina again any time soon, and he still believes he made a number of mistakes. “I am not a hooligan”, great quote.

    Zilina’s 10,000 EUR fine and 2 home matches behind closed doors also rescinded on appeal. The security company lost the contract. So that’s that one sorted out.

  7.   StaryJazvecon 03 Apr 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Ay, caramba! Weiss OUT!

  8.   Jameson 03 Apr 2012 at 8:04 pm

    OK, back from pub, so let’s get to it :

    Sad to say but Slovan fans were asked FIVE times (one more and it wd have been abandoned apparently) to stop chanting racist shit at Bello. His two goals were as good an answer to that filth as you’ll get. But perhaps it’s about time the people in charge of Slovan got their own house in order rather than trying to interfere with the SFZ(?)

    On the pitch, I think Weiss got suckered into thinking Za would be more vulnerable to the long-ball and Smetana than they actually were. Halenar, Meszaros (who showed little glimpses of his talent) and Milinkovic must have wondered what they were supposed to be doing. When Szarka, a second lighthouse, was sent into the fray, it was clear Slovan were getting desperate.

    Cagey 1st half with Slovan actually slightly better. But their dozy start to the 2nd cost them, and Za were on easy street thereafter. Piacek, Akakpo, Gergel and Bello were all superb, but Akakpo limping off at the end was a worrying sight (not sure all the Za fans noticed amidst the celebrations).

    Two Slovan players showed their class ; I noticed Bagayoko put his arm round Bello while the racist stuff was going on – nice gesture from a guy who was on the wrong end of it himself in Za 18 months or so ago. And Grendel played some lovely stuff after he came on, tried to do a bit more than just lump it, and came closest to putting Slovan back in the game.

    Enjoyable win, but hard game at Senica this w/e, would be nice if Slovan and Trnava cancel each other out.

  9.   Jameson 04 Apr 2012 at 5:50 am

    Slightly weird post-match quotes. Weiss offered the startling insight that ‘movement is important in modern football’. It was a bit like hearing that email is quite an efficient form of communication compared to the carrier pigeon.

    Nosicky seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be diplomatic, overdoing the ‘Slovan are a quality side’ stuff just a bit. Still, if that kind of approach is keeping the players’ focus where it should be, he’d best stick with it.

    Senica trashed Trencin yesterday so Saturday’s not going to be easy….

  10.   StaryJazvecon 04 Apr 2012 at 11:39 am

    “One more and it wd have been abandoned apparently.” No precedent for that is there. Never in a million years would that happen in SVK, IMO. How about send the heavies in and throw a few out. Oh, I forgot we only mumble platitudes and pretend we give a f*ck about this kind of stuff in SVK.

  11.   StaryJazvecon 04 Apr 2012 at 12:01 pm

    “Sad to say but Slovan fans were asked FIVE times (one more and it wd have been abandoned apparently) to stop chanting racist shit at Bello. ”

    No mention of this anywhere in today’s Sport, are you sure it happened James? Surely the spineless old scroats wouldve noticed as well.

  12.   StaryJazvecon 04 Apr 2012 at 12:07 pm

    At least we can rest assured that that bastion of decency and liberal values SME wont have swept this under the carpet, I bet they’ve got this story plastered all over their backpage, yep, thank god for that there it is – NEO-NAZI SLOVAN FANS DISGRACE THEMSELVES AGAIN WITH RACIST CHANTING, HOW ARE WE GOING TO SELL THIS PRODUCT TO CORPORATE CLIENTS AND FAMILIES, I KNOW LETS PRETEND IT NEVER HAPPENED.

  13.   Jameson 04 Apr 2012 at 12:50 pm

    ‘No mention of this anywhere in today’s Sport, are you sure it happened James?’

    Last night and this morning I was thinking it had been the most concerted (won’t use the word ‘worst’ as it also implies ‘better’) example of racist behaviour I’ve witnessed inside a stadium since 1998 (when Chihuri got it in Olomouc) but, yes, now, after seeing the morning press, I’m starting to wonder if it really wasn’t just my imagination playing tricks again.

    What the stadium announcer actually said was that, if the racist chants don’t stop, it’s within the ref’s power to take the players off. I’m guessing the 4th official would have advised, or at least approved, such an announcement(?)

  14.   Jameson 05 Apr 2012 at 8:40 am

    To SJ and any other Slovak speakers who wd welcome verification of what I’ve been saying ;

    If you find the game highlights on http://www.huste.tv one of the announcements asking Slovan fans to stop the racist chants is audible as Za start the build-up to their 2nd goal.

    In fact, the PA man is just reaching the end of it when Majtan skins Konecny and crosses for Pich, who gets btw the centre-backs and heads home.

    Pravda also link to these highlights. Their reporter refers to Slovan fans turning their backs on the pitch and chanting ‘tuto sa neda pozerat’, but not to the fact that this chant was a direct response to that final request, where the possibility of the ref calling a halt was raised.

    Meanwhile, Sport’s ‘low point of the round’ is a Kosice player getting a 1st minute red-card at Bystrica, for what looked to me like a clumsy but unmalicious bit of high kicking.

    What do reporters do in this country? Sip cocktails behind sound-proof glass while the game’s going on? Put headphones on and listen to Rytmus? Or are they all just f*****g spineless?

  15.   StaryJazvecon 05 Apr 2012 at 9:51 am

    Well, there’s a nice poster in the corner of the ground Nie Rasizmu, at least.

    That second Zilina goal, great comedy defending, WTF are they doing there, totally village.

  16.   StaryJazvecon 05 Apr 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Sport did manage to report in y/day’s edition that Porto have been fined 20,000 EUR for the racist chanting at Balotelli and Yaya Toure in Europa League v Man City.

  17.   Jameson 08 Apr 2012 at 9:59 am

    SJ, quite right about the guy who assaulted the lino last year. He now sits about three rows back from me in the stand (at least he’s moved to the civilised part, wouldn’t you agree?). There was a lengthy feature in the local ZA paper on Tuesday (ahead of the Slovan game) about all those events, much of it cringeworthy. Worst of all is that the guy – Krajcik his name is – went to apologise personally to Antosik for his antics and that both agreed that it was all the officials’ fault.

    I can’t get one single person here to agree (and I thought some of them were halfway sensible) that a) the so-called ‘bad’ decisions agst Za were marginal and the mistakes understandable and b) that even if they weren’t, Krajcik committed a criminal offence and shouldn’t be allowed inside a football stadium. I did understand there were still criminal proceedings ongoing against him, mind.

    Za also say they’ve learned all sorts of lessons re security(!)

  18.   StaryJazvecon 09 Apr 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Footnote: watching the match now on Huste.sk. I note that there is a Brno ultras banner “Johny Kentus Gang”, a neo-nazi street gang:


    Anyone been to a UK match and seen a Combat 18 banner unfurled?

  19.   britskibelasion 14 Apr 2012 at 12:36 pm

    That banner was right in front of us. Ralph knew the kids unfurling it …

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