Liga I starts today. We’re ready, let’s see if the teams are too!
After a mad season, with no less than seven clubs involved in the title race for a very long period, which confirmed that the Bucharest clubs have been outclassed in recent years by teams like CFR Cluj, Unirea Urziceni, FC Timisoara or FC Vaslui, we can expect something similar for the competition that begins today. Even though Timisoara and Dinamo were discrete on the transfer market, which could be said as well about Unirea Urziceni, we have the same number of interested teams in the biggest trophy, but we should see if the big spenders have been wise spenders. Money will make the difference, that’s for sure, and I’m not saying that just because the referees will be paid cash, right after the end of a game, but because it will prove very difficult in this financial crisis to pay the players and staff on time and keep everybode happy and focused.
The biggest problems will appear at the smaller clubs that should live on enthusiasm in the first couple of months, but we’ll probably see a huge gap in the standings really soon. We lack “mid-table” clubs this season, with only Otelul Galati and Gaz Metan Medias good enough to stay safe from relegation and look ahead, not over the shoulder, and unlike those tricked by Otelul’s good run from the second half of last season, I expect Gaz Metan to be the surprise package and maybe even push for an European spot.
The newly promoted clubs are FCM Targu Mures, Victoria Branesti, Sportul Studentesc and Universitatea Cluj. The first two have the biggest chances of an immediate return to the second division, while Sportul rely on a nice group of players (similar to the one relegated after an excellent season in Liga I, due to financial issues) and Universitatea Cluj invested a lot of money in several new faces and has an amazing fan base. Fighting for survival we will also see Universitatea Craiova, Pandurii Targu Jiu (who kept their place in the league only after International’s retirement), Astra Ploiesti and Gloria Bistrita.
Here’s the first round of the season:
- Sportul Studentesc – Otelul Galati
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – Unirea Urziceni
- Rapid Bucharest – FC Vaslui
- Universitatea Craiova – CFR Cluj
- FC Timisoara – Gloria Bistrita
- Universitatea Cluj – Steaua Bucharest
- Astra Ploiesti – Dinamo Bucharest
- FCM Targu Mures – FC Brasov
- Victoria Branesti – Gaz Metan Medias
For those interested, the games are broadcasted on GSP TV, Digi Sport and Antena 1 (I’ll post more details, if requested).