There is an unfamiliar name at the top of the Macedonian table after five games, while a name from FK Vardar's past is looking to inspire new heroics in Skopje.
With five rounds of the season gone, few would have banked on promoted FK Milano to be at the top of the Prva Liga. Level on eleven points with traditional Skopje giants FK Rabotnicki, who finished second last season, the team from Kumanovo have won three games and drawn two - one of which was a 0-0 stalemate at Vardar - and have scored ten goals while conceding just two.
Having gone four seasons without a title, Vardar changed coach after just one match of the new season, with Dragan Kanatlarovski moving on to be the club's sporting director. For the next two games, Kanatlarovski's former assistant Mirko Petrov took charge before the club announced Zoran Stratev as Vardar's new boss on the eve of the big local derby game against Rabotnicki.
A 1-0 defeat in that game might not have represented a great start for Stratev, but his reputation will buy him a lot of time with Vardar fans. In 2003, he led Vardar to within one tie of the UEFA Champions League group stage, being beaten by AS Sparta Praha in the third qualifying round. Having left FK Makedonija GP Skopje, he was excited by the prospect of a return to Vardar.
'A great honour'
"It's a great honour and satisfaction to work at Vardar," said Stratev. "However, working at this club also brings great obligations. Vardar always have the ambition to win titles in the league and the cup. Vardar have a talented young team and I hope that our expectations will be fulfilled." The club have won just one Macedonian Cup since Stratev left.
In Stratev's second game in charge, Vardar thrashed his old side Makedonija 4-1. It represented the start of a steep learning curve for his replacement at the club, 41-year-old Robert Stojanovski who had previously worked as assistant to Makedonija coaches Radmilo Ivančević and Stratev. Vardar are now third in the table, a point and a place ahead of Makedonija.
Finally, Vlatko Kostov is still in charge at FK Renova despite standing down after a 1-1 draw at FK Baskimi on 2 September underlined a drab start to the campaign for the ambitious Tetovo side. Former FK Sileks coach Zoran Smilevski was tipped to take over but after talks with the club's president, Kostov has decided to battle on.
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