This seasons Gambrinus Liga promises to be a fascinating tussle, in my eyes anyway, between Sparta Prague and Viktoria Plzeň. Maybe drawing a line through Liberec’s title aspirations before a ball has been kicked seems a tad harsh, but I just cannot see how they will manage to hold onto their crown whilst they flirt with the prospect of Champions League football.
Sparta will be desperate to return to the summit of Czech football after being usurped by Viktoria Plzeň and Slovan Liberec in recent seasons. So the club has dispensed of Martin Hasek and turned to Vítězslav Lavička to steer them to domestic success. Will he succeed? I am not so sure if the revolving door at Sparta will allow him.
Personally I am nailing my colours to the mast of Viktoria Plzeň to win the league this year and I hope they manage it with a swagger and style that captured the imagination of neutrals across the country during the 2010/11 season.
As a Slavia fan, the title race seems a faraway land of gold, riches and meaningful games in April and May, a place I fear I will never discover as a Slavista. But this remains to be a discussion for another day.
Viktoria Plzeň has given Pavel Vrba an environment and arena to cultivate a footballing philosophy that goes far deeper than just winning games. Plzeň are more than just about results, they entertain too.
Last season’s game in Prague between Sparta and Plzeň was a sellout – the first time in god knows how long a team, other than Slavia, has sold out the Generali Arena. Fans just want to watch them play.
With so many players coming and going during the summer it’s hard to gauge how quickly teams will adjust to these changes as the new season approaches.
Vaclav Pilař and Milan Petržela gave Pavel Vrba his biggest headache of the summer when they left to ply their trade in the Bundesliga. There is also the possibility of David Limberský and František Rajtoral, who both starred in Poland and Ukraine, leaving the club too.
But Viktoria Plzeň fans will not be too perturbed at losing such talent as they was some good news as Vladimír Darida looks set for a big season in the Gambrinus Liga after rejecting advances from Russia.
But most importantly Plzeň fans will be delighted that Vrba remains at the helm and will entrust him to replace the gaps that have been left.
At times last season Pavel Horváth looked as worn out as the * key at a John Terry trial, however, the portly 37 year old midfielder has signed a one year contract extension and will still be a major force in the Gambrinus Liga. His vision and technique has to be admired despite his advancing years.
However, Plzeň might yet hold another ace as the talented yet somewhat frustrating figure of Martin Zeman has bolstered Pavel Vrba’s squad. The 23 year-old ex-Sparta Prague midfielder was one of the biggest talents in Czech football, but, for whatever reason, Zeman hasn’t fulfilled his potential.
Tales of poor performances in training and an inflated ego were among the chief reasons as to why he didn’t make the grade at Sparta. But, in the same week in which he became a Dad, he now has a second chance of establishing himself as a first team regular.
“Plzeň is a new motivation for me. In addition, it is one of the best teams in the Czech league, which demonstrates the long term. I have got a lot of hard work to do to repay the trust of those who believe in me at Plzeň.” Zemen told idnes.cz earlier today.
Vrba is the master of the phrase “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” And it wouldn’t surprise me to see Vrba and Zeman have the last laugh on their way to Gambrinus Liga success.