Whilst football fans around the world will remember legendary players such as Karel Poborský, Pavel Nedvěd and Tomáš Rosický, not many outside of the Czech Republic could name more than a few players from the national team lineup, unless you are a Football Manager veteran of course.
Whilst most football fans around Europe will have heard of Sparta Prague and Viktoria Plzeň, they probably couldn’t name too many other teams in the Czech League and they certainly would not know that it is officially named the ePojisteni.cz Liga. Sparta have finished second in the league 5 times out of the last 6 seasons and are desperate to win but Plzeň sit top and look to be hitting the ground running after the winter break.
So what is going on in the Czech League right now? Who are the main men? Who are the ones to watch and how are the teams doing in European competitions? Well the Czech League runs from August to May and has 30 games per team on the schedule, although they do have a winter break over December and January. This weekend saw the return of top flight football in the Czech Republic and here is how the teams are doing:
The Top Teams:
Plzeň lead the table again after a decent run of games which included a weekend win at home to Příbram. They are a point ahead of second place Slavia Prague with a game in hand. Their top scorer so far is 23year old Michal Krmenčík, although club captain David Limberský has been excellent in defense and Tomáš Hořava has been a creative force in midfield. In Europe they failed to qualify for a Champions League spot after a loss and a draw to Ludogorets and they were knocked out of the Europa League in the group stage. The team will be hoping to win the League for the 3rd straight season and qualify for Champions League football next year.
Slavia Prague haven’t finished in the top 3 since 2008–09 when they won the League but find themselves in second place after a solid first half to the season. They have the biggest stadium in the league, Eden Arena, and their fans have enjoyed a 4 match winning run. Milan Škoda is the joint highest scorer in the League this year with 10 goals. Bosnian strike partner, Muris Mešanović, is also netting goals and this Slavia team is looking good value for money. The team failed to qualify for the Europa League after a 6-0 aggregate loss to Anderlecht last August.
Sparta Prague are undoubtedly the country’s most recognizable team and have been in and around the top 3 for many seasons. Club legend and all-time leading scorer, David Lafata, is still banging goals in for fun and the club has hit a rich vein of form domestically. They have struggled with consistency in Europe, beating teams such as Southampton and Inter Milan and getting spanked by Rostov when they really needed to park-the-bus. They can redeem themselves at home this Thursday but the deficit seems insurmountable. Bořek Dočkal, Lukáš Mareček and Costa Nhamoinesu are all having notable seasons.
Zlin are the surprise contenders this season. They’ve never won the league and never finished in the top 3. Senegalese striker Dame Diop is the top scorer for them and they have an exciting team. Inconsistency may harm them towards the tail end of the season but a European qualification spot is not out of the question.
Mladá Boleslav sit in fifth place but have not won a league game since October last year. TRhey have a good team with Jan Chramosta leading the scoring charts with 8 so far. Veteran midfielder, Marek Matejovsky, lends stability to the midfield and the defense is solid. Time will tell if they can maintain the pressure on the front runner until the end of the season.
My prediction is that Sparta Prague will come back and steal the league in the late stages. Plzen will put up a fight and Slavia will run them close for a third place position. Zlin and Mlada Boleslav will fade away unfortunately, unable to maintain the pressure on the front 3. Whatever happens, we are in for a few shocks, twists and turns!
Current League Standings