I wouldn’t want anyone to gamble away their savings, but I wonder whether a little flutter on six home wins in the Corgoň Liga’s opening round of fixtures this weekend wouldn’t be a bad idea. Last season’s top five all play at home, and it’s possible to imagine Ružomberok, who seem to be pulling together following their crisis earlier in the summer, getting the better of Vion Zlaté Moravce.
Champions Žilina face league newcomers Spartak Myjava in Friday’s fixture. Certain factors do seem to be to Myjava’s advantage ahead of this game. They have nothing to lose, they will be backed by 400-500 travelling fans and their hosts will have half an eye on the start of their Champions League qualification campaign the following midweek. It will be a close game and Žilina will probably suffer frustration along the way. But the habit they got into last season, of winning when not performing at their best, should stand them in good stead again.
Trnava took last season’s championship race into the final day and will have high hopes of finally ending their 40-year wait for a title in the new campaign. Their start, at home to Košice on Saturday, looks gentle enough. As captain Miroslav Karhan commented recently, Pavel Hoftych now has a year behind him as head coach, and all the players know exactly what is expected of them, something which wasn’t quite true last July. Trnava are still in search of a quality striker, and Ján Kozák did make Košice difficult to beat towards the end of last season, but the odds on anything but a home win here will be fairly lengthy.
Slovan Bratislava should also get off to a good start at home to Tatran Prešov, the league’s crisis club. The off-field news surrounding Slovan has mostly been positive over the last few weeks. Coach Vladimír Weiss has signed a new one-year contract, dispelling rumours that he might be off to try his luck in Russia, last season’s top-scorer Juraj Halenár has just committed himself to three more years, and there are several interesting new signings at the club. Prešov, meanwhile, seem to go from crisis to chaos and back, via panic. In Bulgarian Angel Červenkov, they have a new head coach, but club president Miroslav Remeta has not been available to talk to the media about the appointment. He also neglected to tell the players they were getting a new boss ; the bewildered reactions of those interviewed for Monday evening’s TV news spoke volumes. Červenkov’s experience of working for the unpredictable Vladimír Romanov at Hearts – he survived seven months as coach of the Edinburgh club in 2008/2009 – might be good preparation for life in Slovakia’s wild east. But his team won’t get any points at Pasienky.
Senica play the second leg of their Europa League qualifying tie against MTK Budapest on Thursday (at 1-1, it is interestingly poised), so their opening league game, at home to Banská Bystrica, has been put back to Sunday. Again, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a home win. Their earlier return to competitive action should help Senica, as should the fact that new signings Pavol Masaryk and Matej Krajčík will be eligible to play. I would expect Bystrica to do better than last season’s eighth place, but their improvement won’t start until this game is out of the way.
Trenčín had an excellent 2011/2012, their first season back in the Corgoň Liga after a three-year absence, and they should start 2012/2013 with victory at home to Nitra, who will miss three key players through suspension.Nitrawill have mixed memories of the last time they set foot on their hosts’ plastic pitch ; they went 1-0 up early on and were the better side throughout the first-half, yet eventually lost 5-2. Trenčín may not be quite as ruthlessly effective on Saturday, especially since two of their best attacking players, Filip Hlohovský and Lester Peltier, have moved to Slovan. But they should still be a little too strong.
Ružomberok, with their skeleton squad, are likely to find this season difficult, but Vion Zlaté Moravce at home is the kind of fixture they really need to win. Vion’s 3-1 win over Hungary’s BFC Siófok last weekend gave them the distinction of being the only Corgoň Liga side to win their final pre-season friendly. They were helped by Michal Škvarka and Adam Žilák, two players on loan from Žilina, who should continue to add youthful energy to what is a small but solid squad. This is the game which raises most doubts over a prediction of six home wins, but something tells me Ruža will just about prevail.
Here are my correct score predictions.
Žilina 1 Myjava 0
Trnava 2 Košice 0
Slovan 3 Prešov 0
Senica 2 Bystrica 0
Trenčín 2 Nitra 1
Ružomberok 2 Zlaté Moravce 1