Ekstraliga: What to expect as the 2021/22 season kicks off

Polska Pilka, Poland Ekstraliga column image

Friday the 13th is not the best day for anything. Yet, this month, it is a good day for women’s football fans in Poland. It is the start of the 2021/22 Ekstraliga season. The eve of Match Day One is as good a time as any to preview the upcoming season.

Naturally, the first thing to predict is who will become champions. The ones to watch are usually the defending champions. That’s still the case this time, though Czarni Sosnowiec must deal with the departure of two notable players. Weronika Zawistowska signed a three-year contract at Bayern Munich, with the first year on loan at Köln. Meanwhile, Liliana Kostova returns to her native Bulgaria to play for NSA Sofia.

Czarni Sosnowiec did, however, transfer in two talented senior national team players from GKS Katowice. Wing defender Zofia Buszewska and an offensively-minded Kinga Kozak both join the defending champions. Katowice teammate Nadia Stojanović from Montenegro also joins the two from the neighbouring town.

The strengthening up of Czarni Sosnowiec is completed by three further additions. Defender Nicole Zając comes over from Medyk Konin, while striker Kornelia Grosicka moves from Olimpia Szczecin. Additionally, Serbian midfielder Sandra Malesević comes to the Polish league from Deportivo Alaves.

Title challengers

It seems the balance between big losses and the newcomers to the team is not a worry for Czarni. And yet, there is still hope for the other teams to beat the champions.

TME SMS Łódź were Ekstraliga silver medalists from 2020/21, as well as Polish Cup runners-up. They have also done well during the transfer window. They did lose Adriana Achicńska and Tatyana Markushevskaya. Achicńska, a defensive midfielder with the potential to play as centre-back, signed a three-year contract to play for Köln. Markushevskaya returned to her home country, Belarus, to play in the Dinamo Minsk. However, the other main players remained on the roster. This includes Paulina Filipczak, the second-best striker of the league in autumn. Filipczak had to pause in the spring round due to injury and hopes to return to form. The departure of Markushevskaya was balanced by the transfer from Konin of Dominika Kopińska. Lastly, Łódź brought in Ernestina Abambila, the midfielder from Ghana, who also joined the side from Konin.

One might say it’s Medyk who has had the biggest losses before the season starts. Altogether, 9 players from Konin 2021 found a new club. Meanwhile, only two – Stephanie Herrera from El Salvador and Dominka Kolnickova from Slovakia – joined the team. Still, there are a few experienced players who are symbols of the club. 42-year-old Anna Gawrońska still plays as the main striker and combines that with the role of assistant coach. Natalia Chudzik, playing on the left-wing, needs to show her best in the league to come back to the national team. She faces stiff competition there, including Czarni’s top scorer from the champion season, Martyna Wiankowska. Konin also returns Sandra Sałata, an experienced defender.

Big losses for Górnik Łęczna

But it seems Górnik Łęczna, the 2020/2021 Ekstraliga bronze medalists, have lost the most during the transfer window. This includes the best scoring quartet of the last season. Ewelina Kamczyk and Nikola Karczewska joined FC Fleury 91. They will play there along with another starting 11 national team player, Dominika Grabowska. Patricia Hmirova left for the Cyprus League’s Apollon Ladies. As well, Emilia Zdunek surprisingly chose to continue her career in GKS Katowice. She is joined by Alicja Dyguś, another starting player stepping down from the Polish league throne. This exodus, however, gives a chance to shine to those being in the second row so far. Roksana Ratajczyk and Oliwia Rapacka should get more chances to present their skills to the public.

With that being said, it’s important to take a look at the roster of last season’s 6th placed team, Katowice. Indeed, without Buszewska, Kozak and Klaudia Miłek, another strong offensive player who joined Łęczna, the team seems much weaker. However, they did sign a contract with Amelia Bińkowska from Olimpia Szczecin. A top striker, Bińkowska is a player many teams would like to have in their roster. Together with Klaudia Maciążka, the biggest star of last season’s team to remain in Katowice, Bińkowska is set to create a killing duo at forward.

The top half teams are completed by Śląsk Wrocław. This time, the team will have the services of Wiktoria Kiszkis. The forward was to play for the team already in the spring but was not entered into the roster within the deadline. However, the training and experience Kiszkis gained in the WSL at West Ham make expectations high in Wrocław.

The bottom half of the Ekstraliga

The expected low-half teams are the same as last season’s bottom finishers, as well as the sides promoted from the 1st League, Rekord Bielsko-Biała, and MKS Tarnovia. Olimpia Szczecin lost the above mentioned Bińkowska and Grosicka, along with Marianna Litwiniec, who joined Górnik Łęczna. Olimpia had made a good impression in the final part of the 2020/2021 season but faced relegation for some time. The team might not save itself once again. Sportis KKP Bydgoszcz had many health problems in the second half of the season. However, with that being history, they can now show their potential. The side will miss Katarzyna Siejka and Aleksandra Sudyk, who took a chance to play abroad and transferred to Serie B team Pink Bari. The building process of teams AP Lotos Gdańsk and AZS UJ Kraków is also an interesting thing to follow in the upcoming season.

While several sides stayed fairly quiet on the transfer front, this season features many roster changes. Combine that with increasing interest in women’s football in Poland, and this season will be a very interesting one. TME SMS Łódź became a force in the league, breaking up the dominant Czarni-Górnik-Medyk trio. Their success shows that a second-row team might make a surprise and join a battle for the medals. And with Czarni Sosnowiec battling in the UEFA Women Champions League, the chance of surprising results at the beginning of the season is increasing. Last year, that was what caused Medyk Konin to struggle and eventually miss the podium.

2021/22 Ekstraliga – first leg fixtures:

  • KKPK Medyk POLOmarket Konin vs Olimpia Szczecin
  • Rekord Bielsko-Biała vs AZS UJ Kraków
  • Górnik Łęczna vs GKS Katowice
  • Tarnovia Tarnów vs Sportis KKP Bydgoszcz
  • TME SMS łódź vs Śląsk Wrocław
  • Czarni Sosnowiec vs AP Lotos Gdańsk

For a full guide of everything you need to know for the 2021/22 Esktraliga season, click here.

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