The talented and enthusiastic guys at BritskiBelasi give us their insight into how the Slovak Corgon league will kick-off its spring phase.
By James Baxter
So, the start of the Slovak Corgoň Liga’s spring phase is almost upon us. Perhaps the word ‘spring’ needs to be qualified just a little first. True, Slovakia is currently enjoying clear skies, sunshine and longer days. Temperatures, by contrast, are not suggestive of spring ; it was -15 in Žilina this morning. This, of course, raises the question of whether the season will indeed resume on schedule, especially if we also consider the fact that most Slovak stadiums do not have undersoil heating. It is not unusual for football in Slovakia to be played in adverse conditions but players and groundsmen alike will certainly hope that enough of that daytime sunshine gets to the pitches to ensure that the games, if they do go ahead, will not be spoiled by rock-hard surfaces. Anyway, let’s assume for now that we will have some football to watch this weekend, and preview the fixtures accordingly.
Spartak Trnava v Slovan Bratislava has understandably been chosen by Digisport as their first live league game of the year and, as such, will kick off at 1730 on Friday. The atmosphere off the pitch will doubtless be highly-charged. If the fans of both sides stick to what they do best – producing colour and noise – and forget about the violence, it should be a fine occasion. On the playing side, Trnava have a growing injury list, with Ľubomír Bernáth and Issa Koro-Kone likely to be among the absentees. Slovan coach Karel Jarolím, meanwhile, seems relaxed about his team’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Slavia Prague last weekend. The home side’s selection problems and their own disappointing autumn mean that Slovan should really be going for the win here to give early impetus to their spring campaign.
Saturday sees leaders Žilina travel to relegation-threatened Prešov. The eastern Slovak side were well beaten in their last friendly, away to Honvéd of Hungary, and will need an improvement if they hope to take points off their visitors. But Žilina never find Prešov easy opponents and have a few minor concerns of their own, notably a shortage of central defenders and uncertainty over their best attacking combination. There is little doubt, however, that exciting new striker Robert Pich will have an important part to play.
Ružomberok v Nitra is a clash of two autumn under-achievers. Ružomberok’s problems appear to be the more enduring. The most serious of them concerns cash-flow ; the players have not always been paid on time over the last few months. And there has been little relief on the field, with three successive friendlies having been lost, all to Czech opposition. Coach Goran Milojevič was critical of his side’s ‘lack of fight and running’ in the first-half of the latest defeat, to Baník Ostrava. Nitra look a little more solid. Their players are presumably now used to the methods of Ivan Vrabec, who replaced Ivan Galád as coach in November, and should be looking to climb the table over the next few weeks.
While Trnava v Slovan will not be rivalled for atmosphere in the stands, Senica (in 2nd place) v Banská Bystrica (in 3rd), is arguably a more attractive prospect in playing terms. Both coaches have expressed satisfaction with their sides’ most recent friendly performances. Senica’s Stanislav Griga, who oversaw a 2-0 win over a young Brno side last Saturday, was especially happy with his attack, while Bystrica’s Štefan Zat´ko seemed to enjoy his team‘s 0-0 draw against ‘high-quality’ opponents MTK Budapešť. If either side emerges victorious from this Saturday’s game, and Žilina drop points in Prešov, the title race will start to look genuinely interesting.
The big relegation clash of the weekend is Dubnica v Košice. I was almost ready to write off bottom side Dubnica in November but interesting winter signings in experienced goalkeeper Pavol Kováč, from Dunajská Streda, and striker Marek Kuzma, returning to the club on loan from Slovan, promise better things. Košice, meanwhile, hope to bring in tall Bosnian forward Nusmir Fajič. He has won an international cap and is believed by coach Štefan Tarkovič to be the finisher Košice need to replace the departed Ján Novák.
The late Saturday game is between two clubs who had better autumns than most observers expected. DAC Dunajská Streda did go into the break looking a little flat, however, and need to freshen up somewhat if coach Mikulaš Radványi’s verdict on last weekend’s 0-0 draw with third-tier Pezinok is to be believed. ‚I wasn’t satisfied with our movement,‘ said Radványi. ‘I hoped I’d know what side to send into the first league game but this performance hasn’t made me any wiser.’ His opposite number, Vion Zlaté Moravce coach Juraj Jarábek, approaches Saturday’s game in a more positive frame of mind. He was pleased with Vion’s last outing, a 3-2 win over Liptovský Mikuláš, reserving particular praise for his new signings, Martin Doležal from Sigma Olomouc and Adam Žilák, on loan from Žilina.
All this weekend‘s games, then, would seem to have something to offer and are unpredictable enough that there’ll be no forecasts from me. After such a long break, I just hope they are played and that those who brave the cold enjoy them. Prešov is probably just a bit too far for me to go so I may well head for Dubnica. Both the home team and Košice have plenty to play for and it will be a chance to spy on the next two visitors to Žilina.
James Baxter, BritskiBelasi