Ekstraklasa in Europe: Standard Liege – Wisła Kraków

It may not have been the best showing for the Biała Gwiazda, but for large parts of the first leg Wisła looked to be the better side. Adapting to the conditions in a freezing cold Henryk Reyman Stadium, it was the home side who looked most likely to score – despite their obvious rustiness following their 10 week winter break.

In fact, even after defender Michał Czekaj was dismissed for a foul in the penalty area and the subsequent spot-kick was tucked away, it was still Wisła who were more of an attacking threat. After Gervasio Nunez was pulled back into a full-back position, the hone side began to lose the midfield battle slightly – but just found different ways to attack, usually through Maor Melikson.

Eventually, the final few minutes saw Wisła take something from the game which was thoroughly deserved, as Tsvetan Genkov bundled in a cross to keep the tie finely poised at 1-1 for the second leg.

The biggest talking point for Wisła over the past week was not their European exploits, nor their disappointing Ekstraklasa draw with bottom club Zagłębie Lubin. The club hit the headlines due an outburst from attacking-midfielder Patryk Małecki.

After being substituted just before the hour mark in the first leg, Małecki proceeded to head straight down the tunnel, lashing out at everything on the way. Some have even said the the player left the stadium before the game was even finished. The 23-year old – who has eight caps for Poland – later released a statement saying that he no longer wanted to play for Wisła whilst Kazimierz Moskal was in charge of the club. Małecki soon got his wish, as he was banned by the club for the remainder of the season; and not allowed to train with any Wisła Kraków side, including the Młoda Ekstraklasa team or any Youth side.

The second leg may see coach Moskal make a few changes, some of them enforced in the cases of Małecki and Czekaj. Ivica Iliev is likely to replace Małecki in the attacking midfield role, like he did during the first leg; and the gap left by centre-back Czekaj could be filled by either Kew Jaliens or Gordan Bunoza. Also, don’t be surprised if Dudu Biton makes an appearance if Wisła are searching for a goal.

The hosts will be missing both Kanu, and William Vainqueur – the latter identified as a key man by both our experts last week – due to picking up yellow cards in the first game.

Whilst Wisła dominated the first game, I think the second leg could be extremely different. It seemed that Standard struggled to adapt to the conditions more, and the frozen pitch in Kraków stopped the visitors from getting the ball on the floor and passing. This shouldn’t be a problem at the 30,000 capacity Stade Maurice Dufrasne.

Wisła need to score in Belgium to stand any chance of progressing to the last sixteen, but the hosts will feel that a home advantage will give them the edge. A Polish win or high scoring draw will set the Biała Gwiazda up with a return trip to Belgium, to face either Club Brugge or Anderlecht.

Possible Wisła line-up:

Pareiko; Jovanović, Chavez, Bunoza, Junior Diaz; Nunez, Wilk; Melikson, Iliev, Kirm; Genkov.

The game is scheduled to kick-off at 19:00 local time (18:00 UK).

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