AC Sparta Praha are aiming to wrest back the 1. Liga crown from SK Slavia Praha in the second half of the season with a helping hand from a former captain of their city rivals.
Erich Brabec skippered Slavia to titles in 2008 and 2009 before joining Turkish outfit Ankaraspor last summer. When his new club dropped out of the top flight, the 32-year-old defender moved on to Ankaragücü in November but was back in his homeland by January when Sparta shocked Czech football by recruiting a player with the strongest of Slavia connections. "I must contend with some hostile reaction," said Brabec, who fills the void left by Roman Hubník's departure to Hertha BSC Berlin. "However, I'm looking forward to the derby against my former team-mates."
The much-travelled Brabec is one of three newcomers who Sparta hope can inspire the club to their 13th league title, the first since 2007. Former favourite Libor Sionko has returned almost six years after making the last of his 95 league appearances for the club, while striker Miloš Lačný has joined from Slovakia's MFK Ružomberok. Capped 39 times by the Czech Republic, Sionko has agreed a two-and-half-year deal having been a peripheral figure at FC København in the first half of the campaign. "I want to play for the national side again and win the league," said Sionko, who claimed three titles in his first spell at the club.
Lačný, 21, scored 15 goals in 48 appearances for Ružomberok and will bolster an attacking lineup following the departures of Jan Holenda to Russia's FC Anzhi Makhachkala and Libor Došek to league leaders FK Teplice. Sparta also took up their option of making Croatian defender Manuel Pamič's loan move from FC Salzburg permanent.
Despite trailing Teplic and Sparta by eight points, Slavia were surprisingly quiet in the transfer window, bringing in defender Milan Kopic (SC Heerenveen) and striker Mirko Ivanovski (FK Makedonija Skopje). They did, however, lose key defender Marek Suchý to FC Spartak Moskva and Ondřej Čelůstka, his potential replacement from the club's Under-21 side, was loaned to US Cittá di Palermo. Experienced midfielder Rudolf Skácel joined Larissa FC.
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