We present you Sparta Prague, the Czech 2014 Champions, thanks to the profile put together by colleague Davide Matteoli, journalist and editor-in-chief at Italian portal 'Calcio dell'Est', webportal about Eastern European football in Italian language.
Sparta Praha is the most important club in Czech Republic and the most-titled one. Founded in the 19th century (1893), Sparta clinched 36 national titles (24 during the Czechoslovakia time and 12 after the two nations split in 1992).
The Sparta’s trophy cabinet includes also three Mitropa Cups, a very important international tournament at club level in the 20’s-30’s before UEFA was founded in 1954.
As any other club, also Sparta have gone through difficult moments.
The lowest point in their 121 years of history was in 1975 when they were relegated to second tier. It was due to a non-competitive squad and a series of unlucky circumstances; however, the return to the old ‘Liga.1’ was very quick. Notwithstanding the quick recovery, the Sparta fans had to wait several seasons before celebrating their 17th title (1983-84). Other 7 titles followed after that, 5 of them in a row.
Following the end of Czechoslovakia and the foundation of the Czech championship (Gambrinus Liga) the supremacy of the club from the capital continued including participations into the Champions League and the UEFA Cup/Europa League. With newcomers hitting the stage (mainly Slovan Liberec and Viktoria Plzen), the flair of their myth has been slightly shadowed.
Last-season’s title arrived after several unsuccessful years as the one before dated back to 2009-10. They managed to exploit properly Viktoria Plzen’s crisis. Following Pavel Vrba leaving Plzen for the Czech national team coaching job, last season’s Sparta Praha finished thirteen points clear of Kalju’s last-season opponents in the Champions League.
The starting XI of Sparta Praha is made up mostly by Czech nationals, exception made for the Zimbabwe left full-back Costa Nhamoinesu, born in 1986 and author of a goal in a recent friendly game against FC Basel (4-0 for Sparta).
The other foreigners often used by the Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka are the 1990-born Ivorian midfielder Tiemoko’ Konate’ and Slovakian Michal Breznanik. Usually they start as susbstitutes.
As goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik was sold to FC Basel (SUI), the new goalkeeper is the experienced David Bicik, back to Czech Republic after a stint in Turkey at Karsiyaka (Turkish second tier). Compared to the other new signing from Yeovil Town FC (League One, ENG), Marek Stech, Bicik should be the one to be given a start.
The 4-man defence features sure starts Mario Holek (central defender) and Pavel Kaderabek (1992-born right full-back with a bright future ahead). Holek is the defensive leader and could partner either with Ondrej Svejdik (very experienced defender) or with the young Yakub Brabec. Svejdik has a slight advantage of being given a start though. The already-mentioned Nhamoinesu occupies the left full-back position. The 28-year-old born in Harare is a very physical player fighting for a place in the XI against another young prospect, 1993-born Matej Hybs.
Without any shadow of doubt, Lukas Vacha will be the midfielder in front of the defence. He joined the club in 2013 and he is still young enough (1989). During the current transfer window he’s been targeted by foreign clubs, however he prefers to stay in Czech Republic. In front of Vacha, in the 4-man line of the 4-1-4-1, there are Marek Matejovsky and Josef Husbauer. The former is the most-experienced player of the squad (32 years old) and the one with the task to break the opposition’s build up and double team when needed. The latter is probably the most interesting player of the team. It’s not a case in fact that Zdenek Zeman, newly appointed coach at Italian Serie A side Cagliari, has requested the club to bring him to Sardinia for his new project. Husbauer can cover all the roles of the midfield and he is very good at moving without the ball and be in the right place at the right moment. This is why he managed to win the Gambrinus Liga topscorers’ table during last season with 18 goals. Either will he be sold to Cagliari or will he not be available for other reasons, his place will be taken by Konate’. Husbauer scored a brace in the 4-0 win against FC Basel.
On the flanks there are players able to win one-on-one’s: Borek Dockal (right) and Ladislav Krejci (left). The only striker up front is David Lafata, the captain of the team. He scored 16 goals last season, which helped him achieving the target of 100 goals in Gambrinus Liga.
Lavicka leads the team since July 2012 and is devoted to 4-1-4-1. Most of Sparta’s game is developed on the flanks with full-backs overlapping, especially Kaderabek on the right one. The most dangerous players, those able to score easily, are two: striker Lafata and midfielder Husbauer. The latter is very keen on moving towards the crosses sent in the box by flankers Dockal and Kreicj. The formation can sometimes change into 4-2-3-1 if Sparta needs to increase pressure to pull level. In that situation, Husbauer goes behind the striker and Matejovsky and Vacha are the midfield pair.
by Davide Mattioli for Rumori di Spogliatoio
translation and editing by Angelo Palmeri
Curiosities (by The Stig)
· Sparta Praegue has always been a base for Czech national team, but in the last years the role has been increased, because the best Czech players are playing in the top European leagues.
· From 1997/1998 season to 2005/06 Sparta qualified to 7 different UEFA competion group stage. They have played aganist all the top teams in Europe.
· In Sparta has played all legendary Czech players: Petr Cech, Karel Poborsky, Jan Koller, Tomas Rocisky, Pavel Nedved.
· Sparta started theire pre-season aganist another Czech club FC Hradec Kralove and won the game 3-1, second game was played aganist SK Dynamo Ceske Budejovice and was also victorius with score of 2-0.
· According to transfermarkt, AC Sparta Prague has been valued for 22,92 million pounds. FC Levadia Tallinn has been valued for 3,41 million.