Another year has left and a new one has arrived. We can’t say that 2008 was successful for the Macedonian football in general, but can we predict what will happen in this 2009? Maybe if we summarize all the events from last year we can at least have a good look in what should we expect to happen in 2009.
The First League – Macedonia can have a new champion! Current leaders of the First League, FK Makedonija Gjorce Petrov have never been champions and now, having a good squad and having 7 points more than the second place FK Milano Kumanovo, they can win the championship for the first time. The transfer period will tell us many things. If they keep the current players, or if they sell someone but replace him with good replacement, than they should get the trophy. The battle for avoiding relegation and play-out is tighter than the one for the title. From 6th placed FK Sileks Kratovo to the bottom placed FK Napredok Kicevo there is a difference of only 3 points. FK Turnovo Horizont, FK Pobeda Prilep, FK Pelister Bitola and FK Metalurg Skopje are the other under pressure teams. The last, 11th placed team will be relegated into the Second League, while the 10th and 9th placed teams will go into the play-out with the 3rd and 4th placed teams from the Second League.
The European Cups – Whoever gets the championship, will have a hot summer in the Champions League qualifications. Again, everything will depend on the transfers. Macedonian clubs usually sell their best players and rarely do that after they finish with their matches in the European cups. We’ve seen how FK Rabotnicki Skopje did last summer, when the club was left with only three players and had to sign new players on just 10 days before the first leg against FK Baku in Azerbaijan. FK Makedonija Gjorce Petrov is the top favorite for the Champions League adventure next summer. Four teams will fight for the three places in what now is the UEFA Cup and from next season will be called UEFA Europa League. Three teams will gain a spot from the championship (2nd, 3rd and 4th place) only if the Cup-winner is among those three. If the Cup-winner is a team who is a lower placed, or a second league team, than two teams (2nd and 3rd) will gain a spot from the championship. FK Milano Kumanovo, FK Rabotnicki Skopje, FK Renova Dzepciste and FK Vardar Skopje are the teams who are expected to lead this fight. Ofcaurse, any of these can be champion if Makedonija GP loses the 7 points advantage. We can add Second League side FK Shkendija 79 Tetovo as an UEFA Europa League contender from the Macedonian Cup.
The Second League – Nothing is clear when the Second League is in question. FK Sloga Jugomagnat Skopje, FK Teteks Tetovo, FK Belasica Strumica, FK Bregalnica Stip, FK Drita Bogovinje, FK Lokomotiva Skopje, FK Shkendija 79 Tetovo and FK Ohrid are the teams among which we will be looking the new First league members and the play-offs contenders. As underdogs, it is expected that Drita, Lokomotiva and Ohrid will slowly get behind and lose the race with the others. The relegation battle is a bit different. FK Vardar Negotino, FK Madzari Solidarnost Skopje and FK Nov Milenium Susica are already half relegated, while FK Novaci, despite having a four points negative from the safe zone, it is hardly believed that they will survive. These four teams should be those who will play in the Third Leagues next season. The 12th placed team will play a play-off match against one of the 5 Third League winners. FK Kozuf Gevgelija, FK Skopje and FK Cementarnica 55 Skopje are the top favorites for this place.
The Third Leagues – Each winner of the 5 Third Leagues will play a play-off match. 4 of these 5 will play between them-selves in two pairs, while one will play against the 12th placed team from the Second League. The three play-off winners will play in the Second League next season. FK Osogovo Kocani is expected to win the 3rd League East, FK Vlazrimi Kicevo should end up first in the West, FK Karaorman Struga in the South-West, while FK 11 Oktomvri Prilep and FK Prevalec will continue their tireless fight for the South. In the North it is a bit harder to predict the winner since the league is divided in two divisions and the winners will first play a play-off between them-selves and the play-off winner will be crowned as champion of the North. FK Mladina Skopje, FK Ilinden Skopje and FK Shkendija Aracinovo are the favorites to win the Division A, while FK Lepenec and FK Treska Sisevo will fight for the Division B title. Among these five teams we should look the play-off participant from the North. The relegation rules are still not clear since the Football federation of Macedonia has decided that from next season there will be three 3rd Leagues instead five, so the number of participants will be largely reduced.
The Macedonian Cup – The Cup is in the semi-final. FK Rabotnicki Skopje against Second League side FK Shkendija 79 Tetovo and First League leaders FK Makedonija Gjorce Petrov against last years finalists FK Milano Kumanovo. Anything can happen, we can’t give any predictions. The Cup has been always interesting and full with surprises.
The National Team – The qualifications for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa will end in October this year. Macedonia has played three matches, win against Scotland at home and two defeats, against the Netherlands at home and against Iceland away. It will be very hard to get the 2nd place and advance in the play-off that will be played in November. The Netherlands with three wins out of three matches are currently on the top of Group 9 and most likely they will finish there too. The rest of the participants in Scotland, Iceland, Macedonia and Norway have equal chances for the 2nd place. Even if Macedonia grabs the 2nd place, there is a chance to end up with empty hands as the 2nd placed team with worst coefficient from all the groups will not go in the play-offs. Macedonia will continue its fight with the away game against the Netherlands on 1st of April. We can get the 2nd place, but with lot of hard work! Also, current national team coach, Srečko Katanec, has declared that he will resign when Macedonia will lose all the chances for qualification. So we can get a new coach this year, but only if we lose our chances which we hope won’t happen.