NOT FOR the first time, Prague is at the centre of the football season in the Czech Republic, with Sparta and Slavia battling away for the league title and both sides one game away from the Cup Final. As it stands, both teams could win the “double”, although by the end of April 5, the dream could be over for both capital city clubs. Sparta face struggling Dynamo Budéjovice and Slavia have a derby against Bohemians in the semi-finals of the cup.
On top of that, the big two meet on April 15 at Sparta’s Létna stadium in the league. At present, both teams are level on 57 points, but Slavia have a better goal difference and they also beat Sparta 4-0 earlier this season. This game should be decisive in the title race. Sparta and Slavia remain the best supported teams in the Czech Republic, with both averaging 13,000-plus at their home games.
With only five league games left in the regular season, both have some difficult clashes in their run-in. Sparta have to play host to Viktoria Plzn who are in the third spot, while Slavia have a tricky home game with fourth-placed Bohemians. Most of the top six that will go forward to the championship group look fairly comfortably placed: Slavia, Sparta and Plzn are way ahead of Bohemians, Slovácko and Sigma Olumouc.
Sparta’s on-loan midfielder, Jakub Jankto made big headlines when he came out as gay, the first active international footballer to do so. Another Sparta player, Martin Vitik, is highly-rated and has been attracting the attention of clubs from the big five leagues. He’s just 20 and looks set to generate a healthy transfer fee for Sparta when he does depart. Their young forward, Tomáš Čvančara, is among the Czech First League’s top scorers in 2022-23 and recently made his first appearance for the national team, scoring a goal in the process. Sparta, who are in their first season under Danish coach Brian Priske, have other young players like Ladislav Krejci and Adam Karabec who have caught the eye this season.
Czech First League, top three.
Slavia, coached by Jindrich Trpišovsky, have been quite goal-happy in the regular programme and have scored over 70 goals in their 25 games and have conceded just 20. Their leading scorers are Stanislav Tecl, Ondrej Lingr and Peter Olayinka, and they also have Mick van Buren back from a loan spell, a forward who has netted 13 goals for Liberec and Slavia.
Czech clubs have made little impact in Europe this season, although Viktoria Plzn were in the group stage of the Champions League. They had a tough section that comprised Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Barcelona and lost all six games, conceding 24 goals. Slovácko tried their luck in the Europa League but went out in the third qualifying round and then finished bottom of their Conference League group. Sparta were eliminated in the second qualifying round but Slavia reached the groups and finished third.
At the other end of the table, Pardubice, Trinity Zlín, Teplice and Banik Ostrava all look certainties for the relegation group in the second phase. The Czech Cup semi-finals are next with the smart money going on a Slavia versus Sparta decider, which will be the first final between the two Prague giants since 2001-02.