Slavia Prague v Sparta Prague: The Fans View
The 284th edition of the Prague "S" Derby to be played this week at Eden stadion
The battle lines have been drawn! The 284th edition of the Prague "S" Derby kicks off at 3pm on Sunday 27th September at Eden in Prague 10. It's the biggest rivalry in Czech football that dates back to 1892. But this match, however, has an extra edge to it as Sparta Prague sit top of the league and Slavia Prague are riding a crest of a wave following news of the CEFC Investment in the club.
The stakes couldn't be higher.
So we have tracked down two fans living in the city to give their opinion and insight on the match.
Sparta Prague fan and season ticket holder Dave Gresty has been following the club for the best of a decade and never misses a home game. Meanwhile, in the red and white corner, Ian Hunt has lived in Prague for the past three years but has followed the Slavia since 2003 after a visit to the Czech Republic left him in no doubt that Slavia was his club.
PTV - Gentlemen, the big one is here! As Slavia are hosts let's start with you Ian. What are your expectations for the match on Sunday?
IAN - I'm certainly expecting it to be close, if Slavia were playing away I would be a bit more sceptical - but we've taken 10 points from the last 12 available and with a sell-out crowd expected I think it could be our best chance at a derby win for a few years
PTV - And Dave, your thoughts?
DAVE - Despite our unbeaten start I'm still not convinced. I'm not a fan of our current coach, Zdeněk Ščasný and we've had a really easy set of fixtures to kick off the season. There's a feel good factor around Slavia at the moment with the new owners coming in and I'm expecting them to rise to the occasion, expose our defence and finish off the numerous chances that the weaker teams have so far failed to do. It could be a rare derby win for Slavia.
PTV - The momentum off the pitch certainly seems to be with Slavia but has the shock cup exit to Usti nad Labem this week put a spanner in the works for their derby preparation?
IAN - I don't think it will. The best way to respond to the disappointment from Tuesday would be to go and win the derby. Obviously, that’s easier said than done! Berkovec and Latka were both sorely missed in the cup defeat but they'll be back and ready for Sunday, we are much harder to beat with those two around. Plus I don't think Sparta will read anything into our midweek defeat.
Moreover, I hope that Sparta are keeping one eye on their Europa League tie next Thursday but I'm sure their coach is too experienced to do that!
PTV – What are your thoughts on the cup games that were played midweek Dave? Is it advantage Sparta heading into the derby match?
DAVE - I don't think so. There will be disappointment from Slavia that they went out of the cup, because in my opinion that was their only chance of European football next season but I expect the Slavia players to be motivated as they won't play a bigger game this campaign.
Ian mentioned our Europa League tie and that could be a problem for us. Ščasný is aware that our previous manager was sacked because he failed in Europe and the pressure is on to qualify from this group.
We all want to claim the Prague bragging rights on Sunday and I personally would take a derby win and a league title over a Europa League run but whether Ščasný can motivate the player’s on all fronts remains to be seen.
PTV - Milan Skoda appears the obvious danger man for the hosts but is there anyone else your fear from the Slavia line-up?
DAVE - Not really, no! On paper Sparta are a different class but in derby games that often goes out of the window. If this was a behind closed doors game or we had a competent manager I'd go for a comfortable Sparta win but the intensity of the Prague derby means it often comes down to the mental strength of the players and the ability of the manger to motivate them.
I just worry about Slavia dealing with the occasion better. The game will probably be fairly tight. Slavia have struggled to handle David Lafata in recent meetings but I expect Uhrin to be working with them this week to improve that. If he can find a way to neutralise our midfield and put our stumbling defenders under pressure they have a chance.
PTV – Ian, who is the danger man (or men) from Sparta that you fear could wreck Slava's chance of victory this weekend?
IAN - The usual suspects! Lafata, Dočkal and Krejčí usually hurt us and I expect this time to be no different. Their defence is beatable in my opinion and my big hope is that they use the 352 system they started the season with. Obviously the midfield battle will be crucial and our younger players will need to come of age but if Sparta play a back 3 our wide men could well become the key to our attacking efforts.
PTV - What's been your favourite memory of the Prague "S" Derby match?
DAVE - For me it was definitely my first derby match in the 2006/2007 season. The atmosphere was the best I've ever experienced at a football match and put the English leagues to shame. It was electric. We had lost a few games before the derby and there were some nerves before the game but Pavel Horvath scored in the second half for a 1-0 win to send us back to the top of the league. The confidence from that win saw us go unbeaten in our remaining games to take the league title.
IAN - Without doubt, it was our last win against Sparta in September 2012. It was the day after I moved here – what a way to spend my first full day in the country! It was even better that a former Birmingham player got the goal in front of the Vladivostocka end. The noise levels from the fans at the end were unreal. I don't remember too much after the game for beer and Becherovka reasons!
PTV - OK, gents. Final question: What's your prediction for the match?
DAVE - Unlike recent seasons it's a really tough one to predict. If Slavia aren't switched on defensively we could absolutely destroy them but the likely scenario is Slavia taking a first half lead with us leaving it too late to get into the game. 2-1 Slavia.
IAN - I'm going to go with 1-1. I can't see either team keeping a clean sheet to be honest. We're on a good run in the league and I think being at home will help see us through without defeat.
Both clubs have announced that the match is a sell-out but for those without tickets you can watch the game live on O2 Sport from 3pm on Sunday 27 September.
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