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Skënderbeu streets ahead in Albania

Published: Wednesday 12 December 2012, 11.07CET
"It's tough to stay sharp when there is nobody to challenge us," KS Skënderbeu coach Mirel Josa told UEFA.com with his side cantering towards a third straight title in Albania.
by Fatjon Pandovski
Skënderbeu streets ahead in Albania
Skënderbeu are romping towards a third successive title in Albania ©www.albaniasoccer.com
Published: Wednesday 12 December 2012, 11.07CET

Skënderbeu streets ahead in Albania

"It's tough to stay sharp when there is nobody to challenge us," KS Skënderbeu coach Mirel Josa told UEFA.com with his side cantering towards a third straight title in Albania.

KS Skënderbeu had to overcome a degree of adversity to win Albanian titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12, but look set to take a third successive crown at a canter – thus matching KF Tirana's three-in-a-row triumphs of 2002–05. With Mirel Josa's men ten points clear at the top of the table at the winter break, and still unbeaten after 13 Super League games, it has almost been too easy.

"This team is by far the most talented I have seen this season," coach Josa told UEFA.com. "With the addition of some key players, we became stronger and it will be very hard for any team to overtake us. We have been very consistent and have kept our composure throughout the first half of the season. If we stay focused and don't worry about the other sides, we will be fine."

Statistics certainly justify that attitude. The division's 24-goal leading scorers, Skënderbeu also boast the league's top marksman in towering Croatian Pero Perić, who has ten to date. Moreover, having conceded only five times (on average, a goal every 234 minutes), they have one of the best defensive records in any 2012/13 European top flight: only FC Bayern München and Montenegro's FK Grbalj can better them.

"It's tough to stay sharp when there is nobody to challenge us," admitted Josa, 49, who rejoined the Korce-based club this summer having led Skënderbeu in 2005/06 and 2010/11. "The players have done exactly what I have asked them in training and during matches. They know the small margin between success and failure – consistent preparation and a positive approach are what make the difference."

One of six teams still undefeated in a European premier division this season – alongside FC Barcelona, FC Porto, SL Benfica, Olympiacos FC and Anorthosis Famagusta FC – Skënderbeu's progress has contrasted starkly with a tough campaign for many of their rivals, marked by instability on and off the pitch. However, the pacesetters had their share of problems earlier in the term.

Josa took charge a few weeks after club president Agim Zeqo and Czech coach Stanislav Levý departed in the wake of a UEFA Champions League second qualifying round exit to Hungarian champions Debreceni VSC. New president Ardjan Takaj brought in Josa, perhaps mindful he played a role in Tirana's championship treble of the last decade, steering the capital club to the 2003/04 title.

Certainly, it is hard to imagine the side named after national hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg losing their way, and with a double on the cards, Josa has reason to look forward to 2013. "It will be special," he said. "This team is very strong and is on a roll, as we have beaten all our rivals – Tirana, Teuta, Kukësi and Flamurtari – by at least two goals. Right now, we can beat anybody. We can only lose to ourselves."

Last updated: 17/12/12 10.08CET

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