After a few shocks on matchday 16, including Korona snatching a win at home to Legia in a five-goal thriller, and relegation-bound Podbeskidzie proving they do have a chance of survival by smashing four past a hapless Jagiellonia, Matchday 17 has a lot to live up to. Ryan Hubbard guides us through the key points of the weekend’s eight Ekstraklasa games.
Lechia Gdańsk – Pogoń Szczecin (Friday 1, 17:00 UK)
The weekend’s Ekstraklasa action kicks off on Friday tea-time on Poland’s Baltic coast, where Pogoń Szczecin make the relatively short journey to Gdańsk’s PGE Arena. After a heavy defeat on matchday 16, Artur Skowronek will be looking for a quick response against a Lechia side who could only manage a point against a severely weakened Polonia side in Warsaw.
Whilst Lechia boss Bogusław Kaczmarek will be without defender Sebastian Madera through injury, his opposite number is free from any injury or suspension headaches for the trip eastwards.
Just three points separate the two sides going into Friday’s meeting, but besides their opening day hammering of Zagłębie, Pogoń haven’t been as prolific in front of goal – scoring just fourteen times since. Lechia meanwhile have managed to hit the net 22 times, although 9 of those were through now-departed striker Abdou Razack Traoré.
Whilst the last three meetings between the two sides have all finished 2-0 to the visiting team, this game is expected to be a little closer. Lechia have only managed two home wins all season, but their opponents are just as profitable outside of Szczecin, meaning that it will possibly be difficult to set these sides apart.
Lech Poznań – Polonia Warszawa (Friday 1, 19:45 UK)
Since their 2-1 defeat at Konwiktorską in their last meeting, Piotr Stokowiec’s Polonia side has undergone massive changes – one being that striker Łukasz Teodorczyk has swapped the “Czarne Koszule” of Polonia for the blue of Lech Poznań. However due to a clause in the player’s transfer (as well as the player picking up his fourth yellow of the season last week), 21 year-old Teo will play no part in welcoming his former team-mates to his new home.
Another player missing the game due to a clause in his contract is Polonia midfielder Jacek Kiełb, who is on loan from Lech. Following his introduction against Lechia last week, Polonia looked much stronger; whilst he was also instrumental in assisting goalscorer Miłosz Przybecki, who himself could find his way into Stokowiec’s starting eleven. Elsewhere, both sides are also missing players who are suffering from long-term injuries – Lech defender Manuel Arboleda will continue to sit on the sidelines, whilst both Dimitrije Injac and Diem Yahiya miss out for Polonia.
Whilst Lech are the more successful of the two sides, Polonia lead the head-to-head meetings between the two sides by 12 wins to 10. However the last two games have both seen victories for the Kolejorz, and with the winter’s transfer activity being much kinder to the home side, it is no wonder that Lech are by far-and-away favourites for this one.
Ruch Chorzów – Widzew Łódź (Saturday 2, 12:30 UK)
Whilst the two clubs share a friendship off of the pitch, there will be no favours handed out at Ulica Cicha as both Ruch Chorzów and Widzew Łódź aim to pick up their first wins of spring. Whilst the visitors surrendered a lead away in Wrocław last Saturday, the Niebiescy will be eager to pull themselves away from the Ekstraklasa drop zone following their 0-4 hammering to Lech Poznań.
Ruch boss Jacek Zieliński is the one with the biggest selection problems for the game, with winter signing Łukasz Tymiński suspended following his fourth yellow card of the season, and injuries to Marek Szyndrowski, Gabor Straka and Maciej Sadlok. The Niebiescy also have doubts over striker Andrzej Niedzielan and goalkeeper Boris Pesković. Widzew meanwhile will be without Maciej Mielczarz and Jakub Bartkowski for their trip to Silesia.
On recent (and season) form, Widzew look favourites for this clash. With Ruch still struggling to permanently replace top goalscorer Arek Piech, their goalscoring threat has dried up significantly. In contrast, Widzew have brought in Bartłomiej Pawłowski who went on to grab his sides opener against Śląsk on Matchday 16. And with Łukasz Bróz and Mariusz Stępiński also providing a goal threat, it is difficult to look past Widzew for the win.
Piast Gliwice – Zagłębie Lubin (Saturday 2, 14:45 UK)
Coming away pointless from their Upper Silesian Derby with Górnik Zabrze, Marcin Brosz will be aiming for his side to get their first points of the spring round in front of their own supporters. However a much improved performance will be needed as they welcome an in-form Zagłębie Lubin side to Gliwice. The Miedziowi make the trip from Lower Silesia on the back of a 3-0 demolition of Pogoń Szczecin last Friday, and a 2-2 Cup Quarter-Final first leg against Ruch Chorzów in midweek.
Whilst Zagłębie are without Dorde Cotra, Arkadiusz Woźniak and Csaba Horvath through injury, their opponents Piast have a lot more to worry about. With eight players out (including Mariusz Zganiacz and Matej Izvolt), and Wojciech Kędziora still doubtful, it is of no wonder that the away side will start as favourites.
Although Piast sit atop of Zagłębie in the Ekstraklasa table, it is the latter who are the league’s form side – undefeated since the start of November. Whilst the home side’s attacking duo of Tomasz Podgórski and Ruben Jurado have hit ten goals between them, Zagłębie have the partnership of Szymon Pawłowski and Michał Papadopulos who have a combined total of thirteen so far. After they both netted in last week’s win, it seems their form has continued after winter.
Legia Warszawa – GKS Bełchatów (Saturday 2, 17:30 UK)
League leaders Legia come into Saturday’s clash in need of points, following their shock 3-2 defeat against Korona Kielce. The loss means that their four point lead over Lech has now slipped to just one, although their 4-1 cup win over Pierwsza Liga side Olimpia Grudziądz has put some confidence into their strikers. Bełchatów meanwhile will be hoping to improve on their goalless draw against Wisła – although this isn’t one of the games which Kamil Kiereś will see as key to their possible survival.
Whilst the away side have moved a number of players from their first squad, only Michał Mak is an injury problem for Kiereś. Meanwhile the leaders have five (Rzeźniczak, Efir, Suler, Salinas and Żyro) ruled out through injury, and three (Wawrzyniak, Łukasik and Radović) out after picking up a fourth yellow against Korona.
But even with their injury and suspension problems, Legia should be much too strong for GKS. Whilst Danijel Ljuboja was poor last week, Jan Urban can look towards the partnership of Vladimir Dvalishvili and Marek Saganowski which proved effective in the second half of the midweek cup win.
Korona Kielce – Śląsk Wrocław (Sunday 3, 13:30 UK)
Last week’s games saw both Korona and Śląsk come from behind to earn narrow victories in their Spring openers – Korona upsetting the odds to beat Legia, and Śląsk winning at home against Widzew. But whilst Korona will be hoping to pull themselves up into a mid-table position, champions Śląsk head to Kielce in the hope that they can start to close the four point gap on first position.
Even with Aleksander Vukovic still out, and Marcin Żewłakow terminating his contract in midweek, Leszek Ojrzyński has an almost-full squad to choose from. Śląsk boss Stanislav Levy also is able to select from an injury-and-suspenion-free squad, although it’s unlikely that new signing Adam Kokoszka will be involved after his deadline day move.
Whilst Korona will look to draw inspiration from their surprise victory last week, Śląsk now sit unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions, and will provide a strong test. Although Korona have won four of the last five between the two sides, Śląsk will be favourites to emerge victorious from Sunday’s early kick-off. It could be a very close one though.
Górnik Zabrze – Jagiellonia Białystok (Sunday 3, 16:00 UK)
It is a game of reunions in Zabrze this weekend, as Jagiellonia coach Tomasz Hajto and defender Michał Pazdan all spent time at the Stadion Ernesta Pohla, whilst Górnik striker Tomasz Zahorski returned to the club after a spell at Jaga earlier in winter.
With games against the two sides above them coming next, Górnik will be looking to close the gap now after a one-goal victory over Piast brought them to within two points of Legia at the top. Jagiellonia will be hoping for just anything positive at all after being hammered 4-0 by relegation threatened Podbeskidzie last week, and then being beaten by an unimpressive Wisła side in the cup on Thursday.
The home side will still be without defender Mariusz Magiera and striker Mateusz Zachara for the game’ and even though he didn’t move abroad during the transfer window, Prejuce Nakoulma is yet to make an appearance in a Górnik shirt since his return from African Cup of Nations duty. Whilst Jaga have fewer injury worries, it is the loss of young star midfielder, and top scorer, Nika Dzalamidze which will hurt them the most.
Whilst Jagiellonia’s defence will be still suffering from leaking those four goals in Bielsko-Biała, Górnik’s weakened attack could still struggle against the physical presence of Michał Pazdan and Ugo Ukah. However if the result is going to go one way or another, you’d do much worse than to put your money on the home side.
Wisła Kraków – Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biała (Monday 4, 17:30 UK)
Ten points and two positions separate Wisła and Podbeskidzie in the Ekstraklasa table, but after matchday sixteen’s results you would be forgiven for thinking that it was the Kraków-based club who were the ones closer to relegation. Despite going down to ten-men following the dismissal of defender Arkadiusz Głowacki, Wisła could only manage a goalless draw against bottom-club GKS Bełchatów, whilst Podbeskidzie earned their greatest ever top-flight win, sticking four past Jagiellonia.
Wisła are likely to be able to bring back midfielder Łukasz Garguła, who missed last week’s clash with Bełchatów through injury, although youngster Michał Szewczyk will definitely miss out. Meanwhile the visitors will be without their winter signing Luka Gusic, who was also absent for the Jagiellonia game.
Looking at the histories of the two clubs, it is hard to imagine this game being anything other than a home win – however the head-to-head suggests that this one is a little harder to call. In their five meetings, it is actually Podbeskidzie who have the better record, winning two compared to Wisła’s one.