category: Czech Republic

The new season is underway in the Czech Republic, and Sparta Prague have set the early pace with four wins out of four in the Gambrinus Liga. Arch rivals Slavia, having narrowly survived severe financial problems over the summer, have fared less well in losing two games so far.

But it’s the performance of champions Viktoria Plzeň in Europe which is the big story. Having won their first title last season Plzeň have made the most of the opportunity by sealing a place in the group stages in highly impressive fashion.

Landmark victory in Copenhagen

The 3-1 victory away to FC Copenhagen in the first leg of the third qualifying round was a landmark one. Copenhagen have become a difficult team to beat even for some of Europe’s biggest teams so this result has shown just how far Plzeň have come since their weak Europa League showing 12 months ago.

It was Viktoria’s fifth consecutive victory in the qualifying campaign, wins home and away against Rosenborg following a comfortable 9-1 aggregate jaunt against Armenian champions Pyunik.

This success was followed up by a sixth win in the home leg, the 2-1 win giving them a 5-2 aggregate triumph. The “home” crowd of over 19,350 compares to an average league attendance of just 4-5,000, though the game was played in Prague whilst the required ground grading improvements are carried out at Štruncovy Sady.

With confirmation of their group stage opponents Plzeň can reflect on a job well done and look forward to money-spinning clashes against Barcelona and Milan. The third opponents, Belorussian champions BATE Borisov, will be challenging opponents for third place entry into the Europa League.

More than just a flash in the pan?

The financial bonanza that this brings to Viktoria gives them a great opportunity to establish themselves as more than just a flash-in-the-pan success. With Slavia weakened, Czech football needs a club that can challenge Sparta consistently and Plzeň currently are that team.

As if to emphasize the fact, Plzeň’s next match is the small matter of a title rivals clash at home to Sparta. Defeat will see the champions eight points off the pace after just five games so it’s a crucial fixture for both clubs.

Both promoted clubs – Dukla Prague and Viktoria Žižkov – were granted their licenses without undue problems. Dukla picked up four points from their first two matches but then lost to the two Viktorias, Plzeň and Žižkov. Managed by the magnificently-named Martin Pulpit, Žižkov lost their other three fixtures but sit clear of the relegation places for now.

The only managerial change of the summer came at Banik Ostrava, where Pavel Malura replaced Karol Marko. Four straight defeats and bottom of the table do not represent a good start.

Another great piece by Mark Chalcraft - Editor of the fantastic website 2nd Yellow. If you enjoyed Mark’s work please visit his superb website 2nd Yellow - where he looks at the dirty side of football.


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