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28.10.2020Europa League

Our next opponents: ‘Czech Klopp’ is the face of Slavia

Time to get a break is getting shorter and shorter: The Werkself only have two days off before the Europa League game away to Slavia Prague on Thursday 29 October (kick-off: 21.00 CET) – and Slavia are opponents who have impressed on the European stage in the last two years.
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Position

Slavia Prague’s Europa League campaign has not taken off yet this term. The club could have qualified for the Champions League, as they did last year, but they lost out to the Danish side FC Midtjylland in the play-offs. There was no real satisfaction in the Czech capital being in the same group as Bayer 04. “I’d rather play against Arsenal than Leverkusen and the others,” said coach Jindrich Trpisovsky. “I think they will be very lively games.” To cap it all, the opening fixture went wrong: Slavia lost 3-1 at Hapoel Be’er Sheva. However, they can prepare properly for the game against Bayer 04. The Czech League is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic spreading in the country and the game against Be’er Sheva was their only match in the past three weeks. Up to the suspension, Slavia were flying high in the league with five wins and a draw from the first six games with an impressive goal difference of 19 for and 2 against – putting them in second place behind city rivals Sparta who have not dropped any points so far..

Personnel

The face of the club is coach Trpisovsky, who is often called the Czech version of Jürgen Klopp – and not just because of his penchant for baseball caps. Trpisovsky is also very well known for his passion, is considered to be an excellent communicator and outstanding at motivating his players. No wonder that he describes the German coach as his big role model. The 44-year-old does not have a notable playing career to speak off and his time as a coach has been anything but usual. Seven years ago he was working in a gambling hall and also as a waiter while coaching an amateur club. In his last two seasons as the Slavia coach, he won the league title twice and led the club to the Champions League in 2019 for only the second time in the club’s history.

Trpisovsky prefers to play a 4-2-3-1 system. The defence is primarily made up of Czech Republic internationals with plenty of experience like captain Jan Boril and Slavia have a number of young players from abroad – such as the Nigerian striker Peter Olayinka and he has reportedly attracted interest from clubs from the Bundesliga and Serie A. It remains to be seen whether the pacy left winger will play against Bayer 04 as Olayinka tested positive for coronavirus that ruled him out of the Europa League match against Be’er Sheva. There are not too many big names in the Czech squad – with perhaps the exception of the little midfield maestro Nicolae Stanciu. The versatile technician and set-piece specialist played for Romania in Euro 2016 where he posed problems for the hosts France in the opening match.

Perfromers

Slavia have the confidence and belief to compete with any European team. The Czech side demonstrated that in impressive fashion in last season’s Champions League campaign in the group of death made up of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund. Slavia performed above par against three top European teams and were clearly not the weaker team in any of the games. The Prague team secured a draw against the mighty Barcelona at the Camp Nou as they also did against the eventual Europa League finalists Inter Milan with the Czechs leading up to added time. Slavia caused a big surprise in 2018/19 in the Europa League when they knocked Sevilla out of their favourite competition and then only lost out to the winners Chelsea in the quarter-finals. The main point was: The Czechs are not in awe of any big opponents and their quick and skilled attacking players have the ability to hurt any team. The team also reflects the passion of Trpisovsky.

Problems

Slavia have recently been hit by players leaving the club. The team’s top player midfielder Tomas Soucek joined Premier League West Ham United in January, full back Vladimir Coufal followed a few weeks later. They also lost three potentially influential players in their attacking game in Alexandru Baluta, Jan Sykora and former Dresden player Josef Husbauer. The outcome: Slavia have often been criticised in the Czech Republic recently for a lack of creativity and that was evident against Be’er Sheva. “They always play the same way,” said the Czech Republic coach Karel Jarolim.

Prediction

Slavia Prague are under pressure after the surprise opening defeat in Israel. The points against the unknown quantity Be’er Sheva were almost taken for granted. Slavia now have to get a result against the Werkself or Nice – or preferably both. Otherwise going through to the next round could be difficult. But the recent past has shown Trpisovsky’s team finds it easier against supposedly top quality opponents.

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