Round 29 was a belter! The second club relegated, the leaders dropping from right down to fourth with merely a slim chance of still winning the title, and another club dropping out of the title race altogether; meanwhile clubs with nothing to play for were also smashing the European dreams of others. With just 90 minutes left on each clubs’ season, there are three clubs still in the hunt for the league title; whilst the same three sides are guaranteed European football alongside cup winners Legia Warszawa – but we have no idea in which order! It’s not going to be as hectic as Thursday night, but expect the title to change hands a couple of times as Ekstraklasa Round 30 gets into full swing.
GKS Bełchatów (14th) – Cracovia (16th)
The first of a couple of games, where sides have pretty much nothing to play for. Bełchatów could at most climb to 13th if Lechia don’t win; whilst Cracovia are firmly rooted to the bottom, and can’t move position even with three points due to their head-to-head results against ŁKS.
Both clubs will be looking towards next season; with Bełchatów aiming to avoid a second successive relegation battle, and Cracovia trying to battle their way out of the murky waters of the Pierwsza Liga. We could see youth blooded for both sides here before both Kamil Kiereś and Tomasz Kafarski make changes in the summer.
Jagiellonia Białystok (11th) – ŁKS Łódź (15th)
Again, another tie where both of the senior sides will be mentally on the beach. With favourable results, a win could move Jagiellonia a couple of places – but with safety assured, there is no real incentive for the players to go out and win this one.
ŁKS were finally relegated back to the Pierwsza Liga last week at the first hurdle. It was nothing short of expected, with the club’s financial problems and general poor showing in the league. Again, youth will be likely for the former, whereas ŁKS will probably want to get the most out of their higher earners whilst they still have them. Don’t expect a special game here…
Legia Warszawa (4th) – Korona Kielce (5th)
Just a few days ago, it looked like this would be the game that decided the direction of the Ekstraklasa trophy, as well as the final European place. But with both teams suffering shocking defeats (to Lechia Gdańsk and Widzew Łódź respectively), the importance of this game has also pretty much paled into insignificance.
If Legia want to hold onto their slim hopes of the title, they will have to make sure that they win, and hope that the results involving the three sides in front all go in their favour. With the unpredictable nature of this season’s Ekstraklasa, this can’t be ruled out; but come the end of the day, don’t expect either of these sides to have impacted the top three.
Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biała (12th) – Polonia Warszawa (6th)
After a decent first season in the Ekstraklasa, Podbeskidzie’s season has tailed off in recent weeks; whilst their opponents Polonia have also similarly lost momentum towards the climax of the season. At Christmas we were talking about how Warsaw’s smaller club could make a push for the title – and now the only thing that they have to play for is the sixth position that they currently occupy.
If both Jagiellonia and Zagłębie lose their games, a win would move Podbeskidzie up two positions to 10th – but with four losses and a draw from their last five, the Górale’s current form is the worst in the division. Polonia should win this one; but with form almost as bad, it’s by no means a banker.
Ruch Chorzów (2nd) – Lechia Gdańsk (13th)
After their 2-0 win at relegated Cracovia in the penultimate round, Ruch are still well in the hunt for their fifteenth league title – and the first in Silesia since 1989! They need to beat Lechia Gdańsk and hope that Śląsk slip up in Kraków to become Mistrz Polski.
However Lechia will be no pushovers at Chorzów’s Stadion Ruchu; on Thursday their fantastic performance reduced Legia’s title chances to rubble, and they will be after their second scalp in as many matchdays. Ruch should have enough to see off the challenge; and now that their Ekstraklasa safety is assured, Lechia may not be as “up for the game” as they were in midweek.
Widzew Łódź (9th) – Lech Poznań (3rd)
After a poor run of results Widzew finally got their first win in eight attempts on Thursday, and with it stopping fifth-placed Korona Kielce from reaching Europe. But whilst Korona’s recent form was not of European standard, Sunday’s opponents are a completely different kettle of fish.
Since the dismissal of Jose Mari Bakero, Lech have improved drastically – and are now ending the season with an eight-game unbeaten run still intact. Since the end of March, the Kolejorz have only dropped points in a 2-2 draw with Korona, and they will be fully expected to keep the pressure on Śląsk with a win.
Wisła Kraków (7th) – Śląsk Wrocław (1st)
During the winter break, Śląsk were sitting comfortably atop the Ekstraklasa table with nearest rivals Legia four points back. But after a shocking start to 2012, the lead soon disappeared and it even looked as if the Lower Silesians could miss out on Europe altogether! However with sides around them dropping points and a five game unbeaten run leading up to today, Śląsk are on the brink of lifting their first title in 35 years!
The leaders will though face stiff competition from a Wisła Kraków side who will be keen to impress boss Michał Probierz ahead of a summer clear-out at the Henryk Reyman Stadium. With a number of players expected to be heading out of the door, one final chance to prove their worth could cancel Śląsk’s celebrations.
The two clubs however have a long-standing friendship, and fans regularly chant each others’ names during games. Of the four clubs challenging for the title, Wisła would no doubt want their allies to be the club who take the title from them. For the second season in a row, we could see the title being lifted at the Stadion Henryka Reymana; but if the home side prevent Śląsk from taking the trophy back to Wrocław, the friendship could be put to the test.
Zagłębie Lubin (10th) – Górnik Zabrze (8th)
When the two sides met back in November at Górnik’s Ernesta Pohla, the home side ran out convincing 4-1 victors – and with Zagłębie’s poor form at the time, it wasn’t much of a shock. Fast forward five-and-a-half months, and the rejuvenation of Zagłębie under Pavel Hapal has lifted them from relegation candidates to mid-table battlers. In 2012, they have been arguably one of the best sides in the league – losing only two of their 12 games going into Sunday’s clash in Lubin. During the same period, Górnik have also lost just two games – a record that is only beaten by their fellow Upper Silesians, and biggest rivals Ruch Chorzów.
With both sides picking up fantastic victories in midweek – Górnik’s 2-0 win over Wisła, and Zagłębie’s 4-0 hammering of Polonia – this mid-table clash is incredibly difficult to predict. Recent clashes between the two swing the tie in Górnik’s favour, however you wouldn’t want to write off a Zagłębie side who have won seven of their last ten.
How the title can be won
With four sides still in with a mathematical chance of becoming Champions of Poland, there are a number of permutations that can affect where the Ekstraklasa trophy will end up. Here is what needs to happen for each team emerge as victors on Sunday.
If Śląsk win at Wisła, they are Champions. A draw or a loss is still good enough for the leaders, as long as both Ruch and Lech fail to win due to their superior head-to-head record against Ruch. Should they tie on points with either Legia or Lech, they will finish below them both.
Ruch need to win at home to Lechia Gdańsk, and hope that leaders Śląsk slip up at Wisła. A draw isn’t good enough for the Niebiescy thanks to their head-to-head record with Śląsk.
They also have a poor head to head record with Legia (losing 2-0 away and 1-0 at home), whilst their goal-difference is 5 worse than Lech.
Lech have identical head-to-head records with both Śląsk (won 2-0 at home, lost 3-1 away) and Ruch (won 3-0 at home, lost 3-0 away), meaning that should they tie with either side, it will go down to goal difference.
Lech need to win to stand any chance of lifting the trophy, and hope that neither Ruch or Śląsk pick up three points. If Śląsk draw, Ruch draw or lose, and Lech win; the title will head to Poznań due Lech’s current goal difference being 5 better than both of their rivals.
If both Śląsk and Ruch lose, whilst Lech win in Łódź, Kolejorz will lift the title on points.
As outsiders for the title, Legia require a win against Korona, whilst hoping that Śląsk lose, and both Ruch and Lech pick up no more than a single point.
Legia have the better head-to-head results against both Ruch and Śląsk, but could only manage a draw and a loss against Lech. Should they tie on points with any of them, they will finish about both Ruch and Śląsk, but behind Lech.
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