With a couple of Silesian derbies in the Ekstraklasa, and important clashes towards both the top and bottom of the Pierwsza Liga, the all-important title and relegation run-ins are beginning to take shape. With that, Ryan Hubbard has his top three picks for the Polish weekend ahead.
Piast Gliwice – Legia Warszawa (Sat 27, 17:00 UK)
Whilst they have managed to climb up to the heady heights of fifth position, two games without a win has prevented Upper Silesian club Piast from overtaking their local rivals Górnik into fourth position. Whilst attention will be focused on the other game in the region this weekend – the 111th Wielkie Derby Slaska between Górnik and Ruch Chorzów – Saturday’s meeting in Gliwice will be important for both sides as Piast try to regain form, and league leaders Legia aim to hold off Lech Poznań in their title challenge.
Whilst Piast have steadily improved as the season has progressed, their opponents are in a rich vein of form – dropping just two points from their last seven games. But with just a four point lead over second-placed Lech, and the two sides still to meet in Matchday 27, any slip-ups could prove costly in the Ekstraklasa title race.
Whilst the visitors will be missing eight-goal attacking midfielder Jakub Kosecki, Piast have problems of their own. Wojciech Kędziora, Adrian Sikora, Łukasz Krzycki and Alvaro Jurado are all suffering from injuries, whilst both Damian Zbozień and Wojciech Lisowski are missing due to clauses in their contracts.
Bet365 are offering 1.80 for a Legia Warszawa victory, whilst Unibet are offering 1.80 for Legia to complete the League and Cup double this season.
Jagiellonia Białystok – Lech Poznań (Mon 29, 17:30 UK)
With three wins and two draws in their last five outings, Tomasz Hajto’s Jagiellonia side are another who has climbed up the Ekstraklasa table in recent weeks – tenth heading into winter, and now reaching sixth position with seven games left. Unbeaten at home in the league since a 2-0 loss to Lechia back in October, Jaga have become one of the most improved sides in the league. However their European challenge has so far been hampered by a combination of 12 league draws, and almost as many red cards.
Lech meanwhile are the league’s form side on the road. Picking up 33 points from a possible 36, only September’s trip to Gdańsk has resulted in a return to Poznań without anything to show. Lech have also only lost one since their return to action after winter – a 1-0 away defeat to Polonia. With five wins and a draw in their last six, they occupy second in the form table, as well as second in the league table, behind leaders Legia.
Whilst Lech may be missing both Łukasz Trałka (suspension) and Karol Linetty (injury) from their midfield, they can count on the return of Bulgarian winger Aleksander Tonev. And with Kasper Hamalainen and Gergo Lovrencsics in impressive form, they should – on paper at least – be more than a match for the home side.
Bet365 are offering 2.10 for a Lech Poznań victory in Białystok, however a “Draw No Bet” at 1.50 is what we’d go for – just to be on the safe side.
Kolejarz Stróże – Warta Poznań (Sun 28, 16:00 UK)
As winter took a hold of Poland with it’s icy grip at the end of November, just three goals separated Kolejarz Stróże and Warta Poznań. However with numerous personnel changes in both clubs, Spring paints a slightly different picture in the Pierwsza Liga. Whilst there is still only two league positions between the two sides, Kolejarz have now climbed above Warta, and sit six points ahead with a game in hand.
Whilst their form has been inconsistent since their return to action, two wins (plus a 3-0 walkover against ŁKS), and a 3-2 loss against the league’s form side, Dolcan Ząbki have improved morale in Stróże. With the league’s top scorer, Maciej Kowalczyk, in their ranks, they have now began to chip in with goals from elsewhere – defender Krzysztof Markowski and midfielder Kamil Nitkiewicz each netting on three occasions.
Warta meanwhile are dragging themselves closer to a relegation battle. Just one win – their ŁKS walkover – since November leaves them hovering four points above the drop zone, and with Stomil Olsztyn beginning to pick up points, it could be a very tough few months ahead for Poznań’s second side. With sixteen players leaving the club for the spring round, and replacements brought in on a budget, they need to start picking up points or face relegation to the third tier for the first time since 2007.
A Kolejarz victory can be picked up at odds of 1.75 with Bet365, whilst a Legia, Lech and Kolejarz treble will earn you odds of 6.62.