Eastern delight for old giants and new kings
While the major leagues of western Europe often dominate attention, thrilling title races have been unfolding further east, with famous names such as Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk triumphing alongside several first-time champions. Here, FIFA.com looks at the teams who’ve claimed, and are still vying for, domestic glory in eastern Europe and the Balkans.
There was joy for Skenderbeu as Albania’s oldest club ended a 78-year wait by winning their first national championship since 1933. They did it in style too, clinching the crown with a game to spare after embarking on a 17-match unbeaten run that took them beyond early pacesetters Flamurtari.
Top three: Skenderbeu 73 pts, Flamurtari 66, Vllaznia 56
An impressive record of just 12 goals conceded in 26 matches has taken Borac Banja Luka to the brink of their first-ever national title, with record champions Zeljeznicar eight points adrift with just four games remaining.
Top three: Borac Banja Luka 57 pts, Zeljeznicar 49, Sarajevo 45
With four games left to play, Litex Lovech – who last season won their first championship in over a decade – are well positioned to hold on to their crown, leaving the traditionally dominant Sofia duo facing another season of disappointment.
Top three: Litex Lovech 65 pts, Levski Sofia 60, CSKA Sofia 54
While drama and uncertainty persist elsewhere, Croatia has long since known that the championship trophy would be adorned with familiar blue ribbons. Serial champions Dinamo Zagreb recently made sure of a sixth successive Prva Liga title with six games to spare and have now surpassed Hajduk Split as the most successful team in the nation’s history.
Top three: Dinamo Zagreb 70 pts, Hajduk Split 51, RNK Split 49
History is beckoning in the Gambrinus Liga, where Viktoria Plzen need just two more wins to be guaranteed of a maiden top flight title. With reigning champions Sparta Prague trailing by four points with just three games remaining, the odds are stacked in favour of the provincial pretenders earning reward for their adventurous, attack-minded approach.
Top three: Viktoria Plzen 63 pts, Sparta Prague 59, Jablonec 51
The little-known Hungarian city of Szekesfehervar is enjoying a landmark celebration after its beloved Videoton clinched the first league championship of their 70-year history on Wednesday, establishing an eight point lead with just two games remaining.
Top three: Videoton 58 pts, Paksi 50, Ferencvaros 46
Sheriff’s decade-long reign in Moldova looks set to come to an end, with Dacia Chisinau nine points clear and on course to claim their first-ever league championship, ending the Tiraspol outfit’s bid for 11-in-a-row.
Top three: Dacia Chisinau 83 pts, Sheriff 74, Milsami Orhei 69
A two-horse race has developed in Montenegro, where Mogren and Buducnost Podgorica – separated by just three points with as many games remaining – are both bidding to become the first team in the league’s history to win multiple championships.
Standings: Mogren 67 pts, Buducnost Podgorica 64, Rudar Pljevlja 54
With traditional giants Legia Warsaw and reigning champions Lech Poznan well off the pace, Wisla Krakow are closing in on their 13th top flight title. Holding a nine-point lead on second-placed Jagiellonia Białystok, Robert Maaskant’s side are now within touching distance of their seventh league championship in the space of a decade.
Top three: Wisla Krakow 50 pts, Jagiellonia Białystok 41, Slask Wroclaw 40
The agony of the Bucharest clubs is set to continue in Romania, with the Liga 1 title on course to continue its four-year exile from the capital. Yet while Rapid, Steaua and Dinamo are all languishing outside the top three, the biggest surprise is that the pace has not been set by the likes of reigning champions CFR Cluj and 2009 winners Unirea Urziceni, but rather two teams without a single title to their name. As things stand, Otelul Galati – who have never finished higher than fourth – hold the slenderest of advantages over second-placed Timisoara.
Top three: Otelul Galati 64 pts, Timisoara 63, Vaslui 59
Partizan once again hold the upper hand in the eternal battle for supremacy in Belgrade. With a five-point lead over old rivals Crvena Zvezda and just four games remaining, the Crno-beli (black and whites) are edging ever closer to a fourth successive title – their 12th since 1993.
Top three: Partizan 68 pts, Crvena Zvezda 63, Vojvodina 60
A season in which FK Senica looked to be on course for a debut title is coming to a conclusion with Slovan Bratislava seemingly timing their race for the line perfectly. A 2-1 win at Senica last week has left the capital club on the brink of a record sixth Superliga championship, with reigning champions MSK Zilina already resigned to conceding their crown.
Top three: Slovan Bratislava 56 pts, FK Senica 55, MSK Zilina 50
Having endured something of a lean spell over recent times, topping the standings in just one of the last seven seasons, Slovenia’s record champions Maribor are once again at the summit of their national game. With a four-point lead, the Vijolice (Violets) are odds-on to claim PrvaLiga title number nine.
Top three: Maribor 68 pts, Domzale 64, Koper 56
A season of memorable European conquests has ended with yet more domestic success for Shakhtar Donetsk. Mircea Lucescu’s side comfortably held off the challenge from old rivals Dynamo Kiev, retaining the title – their fifth in seven seasons – with two games to spare.
Top three: Shakhtar 70 pts, Dynamo Kyiv 62, Metalist Kharkiv 54