Monday, 28 February 2011

Season preview...kind of

Yes, it’s the big one. The waiting is finally over as the Estonian Meistriliiga season gets under way this Saturday with a full fixture list. The league runs from March to November and, while it does warm up during the summer, it’s still bloody freezing at the moment (-11C forecast tonight) so most matches are on artificial surfaces for the first month or two, mainly at the Sportland Arena in Tallinn.

This blog is mainly inspired by a trip I made to Tallinn with a friend a couple of summers ago to watch some matches. I caught the Tallinn derby at the leafy  Kadrioru Staadion (Levadia 3-2 Flora), TJK Legion against Flora Rakvere and a Flora reserve match. It was an excellent few days and I ended up being massively taken with Estonian football as it was such a departure from the top level football in England that I have been losing interest in for a few years now, much more relaxed and friendly. And cheap – I think I paid a total of less than a tenner for the matches I saw. Anyway, following that trip I have been keeping an eye on results ever since and this blog is a bit of an experiment really to see how up to date I can keep with the Meistriliiga with only remote access, and a bit of an update on the national team’s progress thrown in for good measure. Also going to try and rope in some locals and club officials for interviews to help give an insight into the game. So very much in the construction stage at the moment, but bear with me. 

The season curtain raiser, Estonia’s Superkarika (Super Cup), takes place tomorrow night at the Sportland Arena with last year’s league champions Flora taking on last year’s Estonian Cup winners Levadia. It’s a bit like the Community Shield, but without the ‘community’ bit, and very much the warm up for the big kick off.

Here’s how Levadia won their seventh Estonian Cup last May (the third goal is of particular note):

It seems likely that the two big Tallinn sides will once again be fighting it out for the title. Flora start their campaign away at Nomme Kalju, who will be looking to push on from their fifth place finish last season. Levadia will be overwhelming favourites in their opening match at the Kadrioru against newly promoted FC Ajax Lasnamäe. Flora and Levadia first meet on Saturday 19th March at the leafy Kadrioru giving both the chance to gain an early advantage in the title race.  

Narva Trans will hope to be able to close the gap on the top two this season following their third spot finish in 2010 and start away at FC Viljandi. Kuressaare and Paide LM will be looking to be upwardly mobile to avoid their relegation battles of last season, but start with tricky away games at Sillamäe and Tartu respectively.

Sander Post returned to Flora last season after a loan spell in the Netherlands and scored 24 times in just 17 games to help them to the title. Flora will be hoping the 6’6” striker carries that form into the new season. After losing their top scorer from last season Tarmo Neemelo to Nomme Kalju, Levadia have bolstered their strike force with the recent signing of young Russian Nikita Koljajev from Sillamäe. Koljajev scored nine goals last time out for mid-table Sillamäe.

Superkarika result (and maybe report) will be up on Wednesday.