All across Europe you can sense football fans celebrating the return of domestic affairs this weekend.
The International qualifiers have provided plenty of talking points but with interesting starts to so many leagues across Europe, a 2 week break seems an eternity for your average club football fan.
In Slovakia it’s no different and the league is interestingly poised going into the 12th round of matches! Just 1 point separated Zilina & Senica at the top, just 2 points separate the next 5 teams and there is a fascinatingly tight tight Eastern battle at the bottom between Presov and Kosice.
Fixtures this weekend and a few thoughts:
ViOn Zlaté Moravce – MŠK Žilina
To give Zilina an extra day to prepare for next week’s Champions League trip to Marseille, this match has already been played on Friday night and Zilina ran out 4-0 winners. Vion have been holding their own in their first season back in the top division and would have had some hope of getting something out of this match (together with the rest of the teams at the top of the league). Zilina though have at last had the chance to give most of their squad a decent rest and it is not at all surprising to see them collect 3 points in stylish fashion here.
Some interesting new names and good performances in the Žilina midfield: Gergel, Guldan and Zošák (who played for Ruzomberok last season and scored a lovely goal in this match) together with a hat-trick from Tomáš Majtán give the Champions the chance to put their feet up tomorrow and then start preparing for next week’s trip to Marseille. Žilina will be very relieved not to have dropped points here as various rivals will inevitably do so this weekend. This could just be the start of Zilina ominously opening up a gap at the top of the table – if Trnava beat Senica, Zilina will be 4 points clear.
Champions League note:
Over the last couple of weeks, the Slovak Champions have finally been able to enjoy a proper rest. 3 of their players were with the National team but it was only Oravec who featured as a sub for 10 minutes or so. After returning from the trip to Armenia the National squad has been based in Zilina which suits the home-based players.
After starting their Champions League qualifying campaign back in mid-July and basically playing 2 matches per week since then, Zilina looked really tired in the Champions League defeat against Spartak Moscow. They came back from that match obviously disappointed, but appear to have taken stock of the situation and are now firing on all cylinders again. Helped by an easy match at the beginning of the month behind closed doors at Kosice (which they also won 4-0) they do go into the Marseille game with the confidence banks fully charged again as they were when they took on Sparta Prague.
The Ultras had been planning a bus trip to support the team in Marseille, but unfortunately this has been cancelled due to a lack of numbers. That’s a pity but the hope remains is that perhaps people are saving themselves for a mass-trip to Chelsea in November.
The Marseille v Zilina game is interesting because it should give Zilina the chance to show what they can do while at full strength, confident, and fully rested. Zilina always have the ability to score goals, against any opposition, however it would still be a real shock result if they get anything from this match, especially as Marseille are obviously not Sparta Prague are they are also under real pressure to get the 3 points.
On Tuesday night in the South of France, Zilina have another opportunity to show the rest of Europe what they are really capable of and they will definitely want to make up for the poor display in Moscow. I will be keeping my fingers crossed they don’t let themselves down this time and that we see a competitive match.
However, Marseille are fully to win purely because the gulf in class between the Corgon Liga and the Champions League is absolutely immense!
FK Senica v Spartak Trnava
Big game. Just 40km separate these 2 towns and Spartak will inevitably take an army of fans with them to 2nd place Senica to make it feel like another home match (as their banners so proudly announce). Senica have a 3 point lead on Spartak so this is a perfect opportunity for Spartak to push on and stake their claim as principle challengers to Zilina. Senica haven’t been playing great this season but somehow have managed to reach this lofty position in the league. This will be a massive test of their mettle under pressure both on the field and the terraces from the Trnava masses. However Trnava are also far from consistent and lost a match away from home where they really should have done better recently against FC Nitra. Don’t expect them to make the same mistake twice though, and be prepared for some spectacular scenes at this match tomorrow.
Tatran Presov v MFK Ruzomberok
Poor old Presov, despite continuing to play decent football this season, the results really don’t seem to be going their way. Rock bottom with just 5 points from 11 games, it is only Kosice’s equally awful start which is keeping them in with a shout of staying up. Ruzomberok don’t seem to be at their best this season either and Presov have to try and get at least a draw from this match if they’re to seriously keep in touch at the bottom of the table. The bookies have Tatran as slight favourites so this is a really tough one to call. Ruzomberok will be very disappointed if they dont beat Presov, but perhaps the revival is about to start.
DAC Dunajska Streda v Dukla Banska Bystrica
The turnstiles will be open again at DAC but whether that is a good thing or not is questionable after they recorded their best result for months recently at home behind closed doors against Slovan. DAC have shown a slight resurgence of form recently and are only 3 points behind a very inconsistent Dukla team. Tough one to call, you would expect a draw but equally either team winning wouldn’t really be a surprise.
MFK Dubnica v FC Nitra
Dubnica have just done enough recently to open up some breathing space between themselves and Kosice at the bottom of the table. They need to keep picking up points though and with this home match against another inconsistent side in Nitra they should be aiming for at least a point. Similar to the DAC match, any result is possible here, very dependent on the form on the day of these two mid-table teams.
MFK Kosice v Slovan Bratislava
Fascinating fixture both on and off the field. There has been a strange silence from the Slovan fans recently and in the past this would have been a cross-country mission to support their team. It is not clear if any Slovan fans plan to make the long trip East but Kosice will re-open their gates for this match and their fans are usually pretty up for it against Slovan. The Kosice situation on and off the field seems to go from bad to worse though and surely Slovan will be too strong here. One thing is for sure, they need to pick up 3 points as Zilina are 9 points ahead of Slovan after their win tonight. Anything but a win for the team from the capital would surely have repercussions.
By Dan – BritskiBelasi