HC Sparta in crucial CHL action while HC Slavia continue to rebuild

HC Sparta Prague faces Servette Geneve on September 5th @ O2 Arena

HC Sparta Prague welcome Geneve-Servette onto the ice of the O2 Arena this weekend looking for their first win in their new home. It’s a crunch encounter in Group M of the Champions Hockey League after both sides suffered surprise home defeats against the relatively unknown Norwegian outfit Storhamar.

Storhamar entered the prestigious tournament as a wildcard entry after finishing runners-up in the Norwegian Ligaen but have wasted no time in ruffling a few feathers in Group M. With their placed almost assured in the next stages, it’s piled the pressure on Sparta to pull out a victory this weekend to condemn Servette to an early exit.

It won’t be an easy match, though. Sparta may have gained a point on Swiss ice last month with a 4-3 OT defeat but it would have felt like two points dropped as the Spartans lead the match on three occasions only to be pegged back and eventually succumb in overtime.

With domestic duties still not underway in the Czech Extraliga, the challenge of the CHL brings its own challenges. The travelling and the atmosphere inside the arena will have an impact but it’s the style of play of Sparta’s European counterparts that is toughest obstacle to negotiate.

“Geneve-Servette is different to the teams in our national league. We had to make chages in our game plan. We tried to play fast, but they were excellent and answered every time we scored.” HC Sparta coach Josef Jandac told the CHL website after the 4-3 OT defeat in Switzerland.

The match-up on Saturday in the O2 Arena promises to be an entertaining encounter if the seven goals shared in the previous meeting is anything to go by. Ticket information can be found at www.hcsparta.cz.

Sparta warmed up for the match with a 5-1 demolition of cross-town rivals Slavia earlier this week. Robert Sabolič, Juraj Mikuš, Martin Réway and two-goals from Tomáš Netík ensured the Spartans were victorious in the only “S” Prague derby this season following Slavia’s demotion to the first league.

Meanwhile, across town, new Slavia coach Pavel Hynek has his work cut out if the fallen Prague giants are to restore their Extraliga status at the first attempt.

His newly assembled side, that only contains 10 players from last Spring, has lost seven of their nine preparation matches. But what perhaps is more concerning, is that three of the losses were against sides they will be competing against this season (Jihlava, Benátky and Litoměřice).

But this hasn’t dampened the ambitions of the club. “From the beginning of the season we have to occupy the upper reaches of the table [in the first league] and head into the playoffs in first or second position,” Pavel Hynek told idnes.cz earlier this week “I worked in Usti three years ago where we also had progressive ambitions and I know how the competition is balanced.

Slavia begin their campaign in the first league at Kladno on Wednesday 9th September with their first match on home ice three days later against Benátky. For further information you can visit www.hc-slavia.cz

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