Both Lech Poznań and Legia Warsaw kicked-off their Europa League campaigns last night, with less-than thrilling performances piling the pressure on coaches Maciej Skorża and Henning Berg. Legia fell to a one-goal defeat against Danish side Midtjylland, before Lech were held to a goalless draw at home to Portuguese side Belenenses – both games in which the Polish clubs would have looked towards for their first victory of the group stages.
While both clubs managed to navigate some tricky ties in the qualification rounds, their Ekstraklasa form has not matched. Legia already trail surprise leaders Piast Gliwice by six points after 8 games, while that is a height which Lech could only dream of: they sit second-bottom with just four points to their name. The champions’ performances have since led to the Lech board restructuring the staff’s bonus system, and ordering that his strongest eleven be not used in Europe, but instead saved for the weekend’s league tie with bronze-medallists Jagiellonia Białystok.
The board have stated that Skorża – the man who led Lech to their first league title in five years – is not under threat of losing his job; however defeat in Białystok on Sunday, followed by anything other that victory against bottom club Górnik Zabrze the week after, would surely change their stance.
Henning Berg has until now seen his main target – progression in Europe – achieved; but now with defeat in their Group D opener, coupled with league form which has seen them winless in the last five, could now see the Legia board consider action to rectify the slump. President Bogusław Leśnodorski had previously stated that, despite picking up five fewer points than expected, results in Europe ensured that Berg and his staff had the board’s full support. Just two days later, Przegląd Sportowy reported that patience had begun to wear thin, and the club were already scouring the market for Berg’s potential replacement.
Disappointing results in Europe will not just spell bad news for Berg, but also Poland’s co-efficient ranking, which next season is set to see the 6.625 points collected by Legia and Wisła Kraków in 2011/12, wiped from their total. Having earned 4.000 points so far this campaign, Poland have already collected more than most of the countries above them. The two clubs remaining in Europe are also more than the four countries immediately ahead of them, meaning that group stage victories for both clubs could help Poland close the gap between themselves in 19th and Romania in 15th – the position needed to attain a second Champions League spot. Immediately above Poland, both Cyprus and Austria are set to have more points (9.125 and 7.125 respectively) taken from them next year, presenting a great opportunity to climb the ladder; but if they are unable, the likes of Belarus, Sweden and Israel, who are all set to lose fewer points next year, may well take their place.