Feb 25 2013

Corgon Liga Spring Preview

Published by at 10:05 am under Domestic

The spring phase of the Corgoň Liga is due to start next weekend. There have been the usual discussions about whether the weather will allow the first fixtures to actually go ahead, even though they are scheduled to take place one week later than last season. According to a survey in Šport this week, most of the clubs due to play at home are satisfied that their grounds will be fit. The one exception is Spartak Myjava, who say that they have already asked the authorities if their game with Trenčin can be postponed. However, in case they are ordered to play, they have had groups of volunteers in to help clear snow off their pitch. The following preview assumes that all matches will indeed be on.

League leaders Slovan Bratislava host Vion Zlaté Moravce, their nearest pursuers, in Friday’s televised game. Slovan are confident enough in their ability to fend off Vion’s spring challenge to loan them one of their players – Slovak Under-21 international Karol Mészáros. He has been joined by one of his international team-mates, Žilina’s 18-year-old midfielder Milan Škriniar, who swaps places with Michal Škvarka. Mészáros and Škriniar should both enjoy a good spring with Vion, but their new team will be clear second favourites on Friday. Slovan have not been forced to sell any of their key players and will be keen to extend their six-point advantage at the top of the league. When Seydouba Soumah is finally eligible to play (in mid-March), they will be even stronger. For now, a win by the odd goal will do them nicely.

Third-placed Senica are at home to Ružomberok, one point and four places further back (such is the congestion behind Slovan). The big question surrounding Senica is how they will adapt to their second new coach in six months. Zdeněk Psotka left in December to take up a director of football role with Sigma Olomouc. He was replaced by Vladimír Koník, who led Šamorín to a first-ever promotion to II Liga last season but has never coached at the top level before. Left-back Patrik Mráz, most recently of Polish champions Śląsk Wrocław, should be a good addition to the playing ranks. Ruža were over-achievers in the autumn, and gave the distinct impression that they didn’t welcome the arrival of the winter-break. Their last meeting with Senica, however, saw them give an uncharacteristically lame performance in a 2-0 defeat, so it will be interesting to see if they can do better on Saturday.

Košice currently hold the league’s best home record and should be confident of maintaining it on Saturday against the side with the worst away form – eastern neighbours Prešov. Košice will, however, have to get used to life without Dávid Škutka, currently second in the individual goalscoring charts, who has moved to Slavia Prague. And Prešov might be a tougher proposition under Ladislav Totkovič than they were under Angel Červenkov, his increasingly hapless predecessor. Totkovič led the side to two successive home wins at the end of the autumn phase, but victory for Prešov on Saturday would still be a perverse result.

Žilina have been busy over the winter. They have changed coach, sacking Frans Adelaar and appointing Štefan Tarkovič until the summer, and have been buying, selling, borrowing and lending players. The most notable departure is Momodou Ceesay, who teams up with Vladimír Weiss Senior at FC Kairat Altay in Kazakhstan. Arriving are Michal Mravec (from Dutch club Emmen), Dávid Guba (on loan from Prešov) and Tomáš Majtán (returning from a loan with Ostrava). Then there are the moves made to and from Vion by Škriniar and Škvarka. A home game with Banská Bystrica will be the first test of the new combinations. For their part, Bystrica will be hoping for a solid defensive partnership between experienced new signing Jozef Adamík and Slovakia Under-21 player Norbert Gyömbér, who will move to Brescia this summer.

The Trnava v Nitra game will be closely-watched, not only because it features the league’s bottom two sides but also because the reverse fixture last September turned into the ‘Soumah affair’. Yet there are other interesting factors too. For a start, the game will be played at Štadión Antona Malatinského after all, since Trnava have reversed their earlier decision to groundshare during redevelopment of the stadium. The reason for this, naturally enough, is that the club want to maximise their home support as they face up to a relegation battle. But it will take a considerable improvement on the team’s autumn form to justify the change of heart ; so far, Banská Bystrica are the only side to leave Trnava empty-handed this season. Trnava have been busy in the transfer market during the winter, with Ivan Hodúr and Ivan Lietava in particular looking like decent acquisitions. Nitra will be happy that Jozef Vukušič, who led them to successive home wins at the end of the autumn, is staying on as coach. Will he be trying to make use of any bitterness his players still feel at what happened last September, I wonder?

Myjava v Trenčin is another local derby, and another fixture that produced controversy last time it was played. Myjava might be well-advised to ensure it goes ahead on Saturday, since difficult playing conditions are more likely to favour them than their more technical visitors. They are also in need of points, as opposed to games in hand, to ensure they steer clear of the bottom of the league. Still, the squad doesn’t lack toughness ; Ružomberok’s muscular striker Mulumbu Mukendi recently described their central defenders, Martin Černáček and Roman Častulín as ‘definitely the hardest opponents I’ve faced this season’. Trenčín have to work out how to replace the goals of the departed David Depetris and the calming presence of captain Boris Godál, who recently joined Polish club Zaglebie Lubin. An assured performance – and a cracking goal from František Kubík – in a 1-1 friendly draw at Žilina last Saturday suggests they’ll cope.

Predictions

 

Slovan 2 Zlaté Moravce 1

Senica 2 Ružomberok 1

Košice 2 Prešov 0

Žilina 1 Banská Bystrica 0

Trnava 1 Nitra 0

Myjava 2 Trenčín 2

 

James Baxter

One response so far




One Response to “Corgon Liga Spring Preview”

  1.   Jameson 25 Feb 2013 at 11:04 am

    The clubs were surveyed again in today’s Sport re the state of their pitches. Myjava are adamant theirs won’t be fit, but Trencin (who have an artificial surface) are offering a switch.

    Zilina and Trnava have undersoil heating so have been able to deal with the snow with no problems. Zilina played a friendly at the stadium on Saturday and the pitch coped OK. Slovan and Senica are a bit more worried but seem to think they can get their games on. But Kosice are now saying they might prefer a postponement.

    Actually, the issue now will be more waterlogging than snow, as the temperatures are going up. We’re not going to see total football on pristine surfaces, that much seems clear.

    I just don’t get the autumn-spring calendar in a country like Svk. Surely, they could start late March and go on till early-mid November, playing games through June and July. Watching evening football at that time of year is one of life’s great (if low-key) pleasures. Now, after a three-month break, it feels like a new season’s starting anyway.

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