Synot Liga preview: Slavia Prague – New faces but same old mistakes?


Slavia Prague

New faces but same old mistakes, or is it third time lucky for Miroslav Beranek?


Last season: 13th

CZEFootball predicts: 7th

Odds: 66/1 (Oddschecker)


Key player

Marcel Gecov – There may be flashier, louder and better players in the Slavia squad but Marcel Gecov, once of Fulham – yes, really – and Gent, is integral to Slavia. Versatile and understated the midfielder may never make the step up, but his ability at this level should not be understated. He does the simple things well, and that is vital.

One to watch

Bekim Balaj – The Albanian striker arrives from Sparta and could well haunt his former club. Balaj started off well at Lenta, sharing playing time with Kadlec and Kweuke and scoring goals, before inexplicably falling out of favour post-Lafata. Last season was spent in Poland with Jagiellonia Bialystok, with whom he scored nine goals. Slavia need goals and he has a score to settle.


Preview

Out with the old and in with the new – it has been one of those summers (again) for Slavia Prague.

The flirtation with Total Football and Alex Pastoor was doomed and bizarrely timed and threw Slavia off course after Miroslav Koubek had moved to restore a bit of order to a chaotic house. The signings made, in part, by Koubek were never going to work in a system that Pastoor preached and so the ill-fitting union between the Dutchman and the Prague club failed miserably and nearly forced Slavia down into the second division. With Pastoor quickly accepting a job offer back in the Netherlands, Slavia were forced to look for their sixth manager in little over two years.

That man is Miroslav Beranek, who returns to the Vrsovice side as manager for the third time in his career, and the 57-year-old former defender wasted no time by jumping headlong into the transfer window to rectify the large amounts of problems brought about by his predecessors.

Martin Latka returns after a spell in Germany with Fortuna Dusseldorf. A man-mountain of a centre-back, Latka, 29, will shore up Slavia’s defence, which was the third worst in the league last season, but his signing also has a secondary purpose: to galvanise a flagging set of supporters.

Alongside Latka, Slavia’s back five looks set to be comprised of four new faces, with only Milan Nitriansky likely to retain his place. Former Zaglebie Lubin and Kaiserslautern utility player Jiri Bilek looks set to partner Latka in the centre of defence whilst Martin Berkovec (who enjoyed a productive spell with Vrsovice rivals Bohemians last season), Matej Rakovan and Karel Hrubes look set to jostle over the number one jersey after both Kamil Contafalsky and Radek Cerny depart over the summer. The winds of change have indeed blown quickly.

Coupled with Slavia’s leaky defence was a woeful attack, a terrible combination. Tomas Necid flattered to deceive upon his feted return from CSKA Moscow and things were so woeful in defence that Milan Skoda, primarily a centre-forward, had to deputise as an acting centre-half. But, with Bekim Balaj leading the line, Skoda back to being used in his favoured position and Jan Vosahilk and Damien Boudjemaa playing further behind, goals should be more forthcoming. And then there is the constant conveyer belt of youngsters who are progressing through the ranks.

Despite being bandied around from pillar to post, Ondrej Petrak sealed a lucrative move to Nurnberg and adapted seamlessly to the Bundesliga. Proof, if it were required, that Slavia has a wealth of talented under-21-year-olds on their books. Jaromir Zmrhal is another such example, but he, like Petrak did, has suffered from being moved around too much, whilst the likes of Robert Hruby, Vaclav Prosek and Marek Cervenka could all see much for playtime under Beranek.

As noted earlier this is Beranek’s third spell with Slavia, each with the club playing at a different home stadium. The man who turned Chmel Blsany from a village outfit to a top-flight entity and into Europe has an impressive resume and if anybody can turn around Slavia’s prolonged period of crisis, he can. But we said the same about Miroslav Koubek and Petr Rada, and they were ousted before their jobs were done.

That’s the problem with Slavia, they always look to be on the verge of turning that corner….

Is this the year they finally make it around?


Transfers

In: Martin Latka (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Bekim Balaj (Sparta Prague), Jiri Bilek (Zaglebie Lubin), Jakub Petr (Sigma Olomouc, loan), Martin Berkovec (Bohemians 1905, end of loan), Stepan Kores (Mlada Boleslav, end of loan), Jan Mikula (Jihlava, end of loan), Milan Cerny (Dukla Prague)

Out: Tomas Necid (CSKA Moscow, end of loan), Michal Smejkal (Mlada Boleslav, end of loan), Kamil Contofalsky (Fort Lauderdale), Pavel Cerny (retired), Milan Bortel & Matus Conka (both Sparta Trnava), Fernando Neves (Pribram), David Skutka (Kosice, loan), Roger Eschemann, Joseph Mensah & Keegan Ritchie (both released)

  • Posted by Chris Boothroyd
  • On 24th July 2014

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