Europa League: spotlight on Slavia Prague
Getting to know the Girondins' next opponents
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - Monday, September 17, 2018 - 16:11
This Thursday, Bordeaux face Slavia Prague in their first game of the Europa League group stage.
Once again, the Girondins will be spending time in Central and Eastern Europe in their 2018-2019 European campaign. To find out more about our upcoming opponents, Girondins.com spoke to Pierre Vuillemot, founder of the website Footballski and an expert in Czech football.
Girondins.com: Hi Pierre, thanks for talking to us. First things first, where do Slavia Prague stand in the history of Czech football?
Pierre Vuillemot: "Slavia Prague is a really historic club in Czech football, and Czechoslovakian football before that. There have been long spells where the league has been completely controlled by a dominant club.
The first of those was Slavia (Prague), followed by Sparta (Prague), then Slovan Bratislava, Dukla Prague and Spartak. From the late 1970s onwards, Sparta Prague were indisputably the biggest club. They dominated Czech football for decades.
Slavia Prague got back to winning the league in the mid-2000s (2007-2008 / 2008-2009). Then Viktoria Plzen emerged as the new team to beat a few years ago. Nowadays the title race comes down to three main clubs every year: Slavia, Sparta and Viktoria Plzen."
Girondins.com: in the late 2000s Slavia were a regular fixture in Europe, but they've slipped off a bit recently. Why is that?
Pierre Vuillemot: "When Plzen arrived on the scene, Slavia Prague were going through some serious financial and sporting difficulties. The fact that they managed to bounce back is in large part down to the buyout by CEFC, a huge Chinese conglomerate. They came in a few years ago and bought up 60% of the club.
That's allowed Slavia to bring in better players, and set themselves more ambitious targets (the league + a real go at the European competitions, even if that has become complicated in recent years due to the dominance of Viktoria Plzen).
They succeeded in attracting some "stars" to the Czech capital, such as Halil Altintop, Ruslan Rotan and Danny, all of whom have since moved on. Because, in spite of all the money, the club's greatest strength has always been the rich pool of talented young players in the Czech Republic, backed up with a few foreigners who may not mean much to fans from other countries, but are totally committed to the club.
Girondins.com: So who are the players to watch this week?
Pierre Vuillemot: "Simon Deli is a very solid defender; big, physical, hard to get past.
But Slavia's greatest strength lies in midfield, with skillful players like Jan Sykora, the versatile Jaromir Zmrhal, and the attacking veteran Josef Husbauer.
The lynchpin of their attack is Milan Skoda, an old-fashioned centre forward with a natural instinct in front of goal and a knack for wrong-footing defenders.
The Girondins will need to ber very careful: in the past ten years, Slavia have beaten Ajax, Steaua Bucharest and Red Star Belgrade in Prague, and have drawn with Arsenal, Valencia, Genova and, most recently, Dynamo Kiev"
Once again, thank you to Pierre Vuillemot for the inside track on Slavia Prague.