By Martin Pavcnik
After four round of matches since the Slovenian First League resumed following its midwinter break NK Gorica have maintained their ten-point lead over NK Publikum in the standings, despite a number of unexpected results.
The top two were expected to dominate as the league restarted, with both having been active in the transfer market during the January transfer window. However, Gorica dropped points in their first league game of 2005, drawing 1-1 at home against NK Bela Krajina, which allowed Publikum to cut the gap at the top with victory against NK Mura.
However, the gap was back up to ten points in the 19th round of matches as Gorica won 3-2 at NK Olimpija Ljubljana while it was Publikum's turn to be upset by Bela Krajina, losing 2-1. The leading pair both recorded victories in their next matches, but both slipped up again last weekend as NK Drava won 2-1 at Gorica while Publikum took just a point from their trip to the table's bottom side, NK Zagorje.
However, neither side's slips have proved costly as yet, with Gorica preserving their healthy lead at the top while Publikum are also clear in second place. NK Primorje, NK Maribor and NK Olimpija all have 32 points, four fewer than Publikum, with Olimpija's performances all the more remarkable given the financial problems that have blighted the club.
The Ljubljana side have not applied for licences for the Slovenian First league or from UEFA, meaning automatic relegation at the end of the current campaign. Olimpija, champions of Slovenia four times and the region’s leading club when it was part of Yugoslavia, will reform and aim to return to top following the example of ACF Fiorentina in Italy.
Aside from the destination of the league title and Olimpija's demise, the main talking point in Slovenia has surrounded the division of the top flight into championship and relegation pools after the 22nd, and next, round of matches. The initial part of the season reaches an exciting conclusion as Gorica visit Publikum for a game that is sure to have significant bearing on the ultimate destination of the title.
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