What does poor week for Czech clubs in Europe say about domestic football league?
It has been a week to forget for Czech football clubs in Europe. Domestic champions Slavia Prague and Sparta Prague were both knocked out in qualifying for the lucrative Champions League, while Jablonec failed to make the Europe League group stage and Viktoria Plzeň narrowly avoided defeat in qualifiers for the third-tier Conference League. I spoke to football journalist Karel Häring.
Slavia Prague had a great run last season in the second-tier Europa League and they must have been hoping to get back into the group stage of the Champions League after a gap of one season. But as we saw on Tuesday, they lost 2:1 on aggregate to the Hungarian side Ferencvaros. How much of a disappointment is that for Slavia, do you think?
“I think this is a very big disappointment for Slavia – of course for the supporters, but I think mainly for the club and for the board.
“We could here [club president] Jaroslav Tvrdík before the season announcing that they couldn’t hide their target of returning to the Champions League.
“And we all know how important it is, because of the money income from the competition.
“So I would say that it’s not a big blow, but it is a complication for Slavia, definitely.”
What about Sparta Prague? They lost 8:2 to Monaco on aggregate. They haven’t been in the Champions League for over a decade and a half now and obviously it’s not a glory period for the club – they haven’t won the domestic league in many years, either. Is it too much of a big ask for them to reach the Champions League group stage? Is that too far for them to aim?
“It’s an almost impossible task for every Czech club to reach the Champions League from a non-[domestic] champions qualifying position.
“Because you always face very, very good teams, and it was the same case against AS Monaco.
“So I wasn’t too optimistic.
“And I don’t think in this season it was a kind of failure for Sparta. They have a young squad, a young team.
“The basic target for them was the Europa League group stage [which they have reached] – I think this is a better place for the young team to develop.”
As well as those results earlier in the week, on Thursday Jablonec were knocked out of the Europa League qualifiers after losing to Celtic. On the upside, Plzeň are still in with a chance of reaching the new, third-tier Conference League after beating [on penalties] some British team called The New Saints, who I’d never heard of. Generally speaking, what do you think the results of the Czech teams in Europe say about the overall level of domestic football?
“Viktoria Plzeň was really very close to the biggest embarrassment in their history.
“Jablonec are always a team who try and try and never reach the group stage; they managed it only once, when they had an automatic place.
“But despite all the unimpressive results we are talking about, there is still a good chance that the Czech league will have four clubs in group stages.
“It will have two in the Europa League and two in the Conference League, or one in the Europa League and three in the Conference League.
“But even though there will be four clubs, I don’t think it will change something significantly.
“Because we know the Czech league is a tough league in terms of tactical approach, in terms of the psychical side.
“And the teams usually do well at the level of the Europa League, in the cup.
“We can see in the coefficient table that we have been 15th and 17th place for several years.
“So I don’t think it will change something, but of course there are some worrying signs, especially for Viktoria Plzeň.
“Because if they miss European competition group stages for the third time it will be a big problem for them.”