9.10.2020Europa League

Our Europa League opponents: Workers, legends and underdogs

The Werkself have never played against OGC Nice or Hapoel Beer Sheva. And Slavia Prague are not a familiar face on the European stage. The paths of Bayer 04 and the team from the Golden City have crossed once and that was in the Intertoto Cup in 1992/93. The Czechs won the first leg 3-0 and the second leg ended in a goalless draw. A good enough reason to take a closer look at our opponents in Group C of the Europa League. We begin with Slavia Prague in part one.

Slavia PragUE

The club:

Founded by students in 1892, Slavia Prague is considered to be a middle-class club of intellectuals in comparison to the workers’ club Sparta Prague. In footballing terms, Slavia long stood in the shadow of the big city rivals. In the first 15 years after the introduction of the first Czech Republic league in 1993, the club finished second nine times – mostly behind the almost perennial champions Sparta Prague. One exception was in 1995/96 when Slavia were the Czech champions for the first time in 49 years with a team that included international players Jan Suchoparek, Karel Poborsky (later at Manchester United, Benfica and Lazio), Vladimir Smicer (Liverpool and Bordeaux) and Robert Vagner (Energie Cottbus). They also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup were they lost to Bordeaux. The Prague team that traditionally plays in red and white qualified for the Champions League for the first time in the 2007/08 season. In recent years the club has again and again found itself in financial difficulties and that has forced them to sell many of their best players. They now benefit from finance from Chinese investors.

Slavia won the Czech league title for the sixth time in 2019/20 – and they were awarded the trophy at the local derby against Sparta Prague (0-0). In the play-offs for the Champions League they went out against the champions of Denmark FC Midtjylland (0-0, 1-4). Last season, the Czechs achieved two draws in Group F of the Champions League away to Inter Milan (1-1) and at Barcelona (0-0). They lost both games against the third group opponents Borussia Dortmund (0-2, 1-2). Slavia finished bottom of the group and were knocked out. But the Czechs proved they could compete with top European clubs in 2018/19. In the Europa League, they knocked out serial winners Sevilla in the Round of 16 (2-2, 4-3 a.e.t.) but then went out at the quarter-final stage against the eventual winners Chelsea (0-1, 3-4).

Led Slavia Prague to the first double in 77 years in 2018/19: Coach Jindrich Trpisovsky.

The team:

The most well-known players in the team are Czech Republic goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar (25), the Romanian attacking midfielder Nicolae Stanciu (27), the Nigerian striker Peter Olayinka (24), the Ivorian Ibrahim Traoré (32) and the captain of the team, left-back Jan Boril (29). Tomas Soucek, last season’s top goalscorer, and right-back Vladimir Coufal are now playing for the Premier League club West Ham United. The Slavia Prague coach since 2017 is Jindrich Trpisovsky, a man with an interesting CV. Seven years ago, the coach, who described Jürgen Klopp as his big role model, was still working as a waiter in a gambling hall at a hotel. After coaching second division Viktoria Zizkov and Slovan Liberec, Trpisovsky finally ended up at Slavia Prague where he led the club to the first double in 77 years in the 2018/19 season. Currently, the five-time Czech cup winners are in second place behind Sparta Prague in the national league competition after six games (five wins, one draw). Sparta beat Banik Ostrava 1-0 thanks to a Stanciu penalty in their last outing.

The stadium:

Slavia Prague have played their home games at the Eden Aréna in the suburb of Vrsovice/Werschowitz since 2008. The stadium has a capacity of 20,617.

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