Ekstraklasa 2015-6 preview

After a short six week break the Ekstraklasa returns tonight as the 2015-6 season kicks off with Wisła Kraków taking on Górnik Zabrze and Lechia Gdańsk playing Cracovia.  A new season means an open book for clubs and players that underachieved and for fans to believe that this season could finally be their year.  At the same time it means the departure of old friends and the arrival of new players with something to prove.  To preview the season Rightbankwarsaw asked a number of Polish football journalists for their views on what awaits us.

1) Who will be the most exciting side to watch this season?

Daniel Markiewicz (Hereafter DM) (Sport.pl)

Jagiellonia Białystok.  No other club brings through youth players as well as Jaga.  No other club is able to achieve as much in the league as them with such small resources.  And no other club would be able to deal so well with the loss of their defensive leader (Michał Pazdan) and top goalscorer (Mateusz Piątkowski).

Jaga

Jaga played some scintillating football in their 8-0 Europa League demolition of Lithuania’s FK Kruoja

Radosław Nawrot (Hereafter RN) (Gazeta Wyborcza)

Lech Poznań – because Poland has been waiting so long for the Champions League group stages and Lech is aiming to get there.  How will that effect their league performances?  Will Lech be able to dominate the league for the foreseeable future? Lech is the most intelligently put-together side in the country – observing how they will develop is exciting.

Marek Wawrzynowski (Hereafter MW) (Wp.pl)

Jagiellonia Białystok – I enjoy the way they play at pace and the fact they have a number of very creative players. I’m quietly hopeful regarding Karol Mackiewicz’s development and that Nika Dzalamidze’s improvement continues.

Jacek Staszak (Hereafter JS) (Krakowsport.pl)

I’m most interested in seeing how Cracovia will do. They have a good coach in Jacek Zieliński, have bought some solid players and are stable financially.  Cracovia might play some spectacular short passing football reminiscent of the old times of Wojciech Stawowy but they will also try to use frequent counter attacks. The big question mark is how they react to losses.

Michał Zachodny (Hereafter MZ) (Sport.pl)

There are only a few teams that try to play the ball rather than kick it.  And though I wish them all the best in Europe, I hope to see the development of Jagiellonia and Śląsk’s styles. They are different – Jagiellonia move forward more quickly, while Śląsk focus on clever build-up play – but it’s the difference between the two sides that makes it so interesting to watch.  With good players at the coaches’ disposal, I suppose these teams are the hardest to play against – after all, against the likes of Legia or Wisła or Lech your side will always sit back. Against Śląsk or Jaga that’s not always the case and not always the right solution.

2) Which player will the Ekstraklasa miss most?

DM: Lech’s Karol Linnety and Jaga’s Bartłomiej Drągowski when they finally leave.  So far during this transfer window the Ekstraklasa has only lost one season wonders – like Kamil Wilczek and Piątkowski – they added a bit of colour to the league but they won’t be especially missed.  On the other hand I will miss Orlando Sá as he was Legia Warsaw’s guilty conscience and he made people question Henning Berg’s decision-making process. 

RN: Zaur Sadayev – he left at the moment when he had won over Lech’s fans and had become a crowd favourite. It’s a shame that he will no longer be around.

Saur

Zaur Sadayev (and his beard) will be missed

MW: Semir Štilić

JS:  My choice is hardly original but the answer is obviously Semir Štilić. Watching the former Wisła’s playmaker in form was a joy to behold.  He was capable of disappearing in games but overall he is a wonderful player.

MZ: Now that the Ekstraklasa has lost Kamil Wilczek, Marco Paixão, Orlando Sá and Mateusz Piątkowski you have to wonder where the goals will come from. Yet it is the loss of those who are still here that may hurt the league the most – young talented players like Linetty, Kownacki, Drągowski, Duda. They are destined for better leagues and clubs, we will watch them soon in those leagues and miss them greatly, especially if other youngsters fail to step up.

3) Which new signing will have the most impact on the league?

DM: The players that Wisła Kraków have brought in.  There’s been a revolution in their midfield – and there’s a good chance that Wisła’s signings will bring an end to the poor results achieved by the old regime.  Wisła’s coach Kazimierz Moskal has got a difficult job on his hands as Wisła in a short space of time have to get used to the arrival of a host of new players.  The autumn round of matches will thus be a good test of both Moskal and how much the new Wisła can achieve.  I’m also excited to see how Śląsk’s new signings will do – interestingly the best transfers might have been made by two clubs (Wisła and Śląsk) who are suffering from difficult financial conditions.

RN: Pavlo Ksyonz – if Legia finally sign him as there aren’t many players of his quality in Poland.  Denis Thomalla – as the young German striker could win the fight between him and Marcin Robak for a place in Lech Poznań’s starting eleven.

MW: In terms of domestic transfers, Michał Pazdan.  Regarding newcomers – Legia’s Nemanja Nikolić – if he learns how to deal with offside traps – he could win the race for the golden boot with Marcin Robak.  I’m also very interested to see how Zagłębie Lubin’s Jan Vlasko and Wisła’s Tomasz Cywka will do.

Nikolic

Legia’s Nemanja Nikolić has not started well but he could be an impressive signing

JS: I saw Tomasz Cywka couple of times during the pre-season. He’s quick, strong and good technically. Whether that was due to the the level of the rival or his class remains to be seen.

MZ: I think Lech’s changes up front may be the most important for the league and their title hopes. Thomalla and Robak look a better duo than what Legia brought in (Aleksandar Prijović and Nikolić), although how Skorża will handle rotation in terms of Europe is quite an interesting issue. As for Thomalla – he may not end up with the golden boot but his input and abilities may be of higher importance to Lech than simply putting the ball into the net.

4) How well do you think new village club Termalica BB will do?

DM: Instead of ‘how well’ it’s better too ask ‘How long they’ll be here.’  I think they’ll only spend one season in the Ekstraklasa.

RN: Termalica will be the revelation of the autumn round of matches, they’ll be comfortably mid-table, or even higher. After that they’ll do worse and won’t make the coveted top eight.

MW: Termalica will be involved in a relegation battle, will make lots of signings in the winter transfer window but I don’t think it will be enough and they’ll go down in the end.

JS: It’s tough to say. They are strong mentally, bought Bartłomiej Babiarz from Ruch Chorzów and they have a good coach but they still lack some quality.  I think they will stay up but it will be very close.

MZ: Termalica have good players with a patient coach, I guess they won’t drop out of the league but I doubt they will make any better impression than simply being average – so I think they’ll finish in the lower half of the table.

Termalica

Termalica celebrating promotion, they may not be celebrating for too much longer

5) Predictions for the season

DM

Champions: Lech Poznań

Runners-up: Legia Warsaw

Third: Lechia Gdańsk

Polish Cup: Not sure, definitely not Lech or Legia as they don’t have large enough squads to compete on three fronts, and the Cup is the easiest thing to snub.

Relegation: Termalica, Górnik Łęczna

RN

Champions: Lech Poznań

Runners-up: Legia Warsaw

Third: Lechia Gdańsk

Polish Cup: Legia Warsaw

Relegation: Górnik Łęczna, Piast Gliwice

MW

Champions: Legia Warsaw – it won’t be exciting but I think Legia will win due to the strength of their defence led by Michał Pazdan.  In addition Ondrej Duda didn’t depart as expected so I think it might be his season, he has the ability to really dominate the league and I think he’s capable of getting at least 20 goals and assists combined.

Runners-up: Lech Poznań – they’re very focused on Europe this season and that’s why, despite the fact they have theoretically the league’s best squad, they won’t win the title.

Third: Jagiellonia Białystok – on the crest of a wave at the moment.  It’s far from certain what will happen but they’ve kept the majority of last season’s side and they’re still developing.  To come third again will be a great achievement but I think in terms of players they’re stronger than Lechia and Śląsk and also more stable.

Polish Cup: Lechia Gdańsk

Relegation: Termalica, Korona Kielce

JS

Champions: Legia Warsaw

Runners-up: Lech Poznań

Third: Lechia Gdańsk

Polish Cup: Lechia Gdańsk

Relegation: Korona Kielce, Ruch Chorzów

MZ

Champions: Lech Poznań

Runners-up: Legia Warsaw

Third: Lechia Gdańsk

Polish Cup: Jagiellonia Białystok

Relegation: Korona Kielce, Górnik Lęczna

Thanks go out to my respondents.  I wish you all an enjoyable season!

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