Saturday, 19 August 2017

Ambitious Czech football clubs rely on new players from abroad

ČTK |
31 July 2017

Prague, July 30 (CTK) - The Czech top football league wants to attract the attention of football fans by a high number of new players from abroad in its new season that opened this weekend.

As the next champion of the league is likely to directly advance to the group stage of the Champions League, which includes a bonus of 330 million crowns, the most ambitious Czech clubs, Slavia and Sparta, invested unusually high sums in newcomers to their teams in order to win the league this year.

With a new Italian coach, Sparta would like to improve its performance: in the past seven seasons it won the league only once. Under coach Andrea Stramaccioni, Tal Ben Haim (Israel), Georges Mandjeck (Cameroon), Semih Kaya (Turkey), Vukadin Vukadinovic and Srdjan Plavsic (Serbia) and Martin Dubravka (Slovakia) joined the team, among others.

However, with so many new players it may take some time to get well coordinated. This seemed to be the team's problem last Thursday when Sparta played its first match in the Europa League, losing to Red Star 2-0 in Belgrade in the 3rd qualifying round.

Thanks to its Chinese owner, Slavia could also buy several foreign players, including Danny (Portugal), Halil Altintop (Turkey) and Ruslan Rotan (Ukraine). The club won the league in the past season and it wants to defend the title of champion. "There is no way back, we cannot have lower aims anymore," the club's chief Jaroslav Tvrdik said.

Earlier this week, Slavia beat BATE Borisov 1-0 at home in the 3rd qualifying round of the Champions League, after one foul produced a goal from a penalty and a red card for the centre-back of its Belarusian rival.

However, Viktoria Plzen has the highest ambition as well, especially after experienced coach Pavel Vrba recently returned to it after several years. Vrba won the Czech league with Plzen twice and he advanced to the Champions League group stage two times.

This week, Viktoria drew 2-2 with FCSB (former Steaua) in Bucharest in the Europa League.

"Our ambitions are the same as those of Sparta and Slavia," Plzen's manager Adolf Sadek said, adding that Viktoria's advantage may be that it is under a lower pressure than the two clubs from Prague.

In the opening round of the league this weekend, all the three teams played at home. Slavia beat Teplice 1-0, Sparta drew with Bohemians 1-1, and Plzen defeated Dukla 4-0.

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