The summer holidays end for six more European leagues this weekend with fans in Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland ready for kick-off.
The Ukrainian Premier League season began last weekend, but Friday marks the start of the new Czech campaign. SK Slavia Praha visit FC Bohemians 1905 Praha determined to make amends after losing their title to AC Sparta Praha and missing out on Europe for the first time since 1991/92 after a disappointing seventh-placed finish.
That showing resulted in coach Karel Jarolím being fired before the close of 2009/10, yet he has since been reappointed, bringing his son Lukáš home from AC Siena to be Slavia's new captain. Sparta will hope the creativity of their big summer signing, homesick Reading FC playmaker Marek Matějovský, can help them hold on to their crown.
On the same day, Slovenian champions FC Koper return to action, hosting NK Primorje in the curtain-raiser. They will do so, however, without their skipper, 38-year-old Miran Pavlin, who announced his retirement following Tuesday's 5-1 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round loss at NK Dinamo Zagreb.
The Danish season commences on Saturday with titleholders FC København again the favourites, although coach Ståle Solbakken is worried that midfielder Atiba Hutchinson's move to PSV Eindhoven has put a major crimp in his side's style. "On paper we are not as strong as last season," said the Norwegian. "We do not have players who can do what Atiba did."
Saturday also marks the start of proceedings in Slovakia, with 2010's finest, MŠK Žilina, the team to beat. Coach Pavel Hapel said: "We want success in the league and the UEFA Champions League, and to reach the Slovakian Cup final, too." Last term's runners-up ŠK Slovan Bratislava are likely to be their main challengers.
In Austria, Huub Stevens's FC Salzburg have sold giant striker Mark Janko to FC Twente for €6.5m but signed nine more players to bolster their already powerful squad. A third championship in a row is in the offing. Capital rivals FK Austria Wien and SK Rapid Wien have the best chance of defying the men from Mozart's home town.
Swiss titleholders FC Basel 1893 also appear a safe bet to retain their crown having finished the 2009/10 campaign in impressive form. Thorsten Fink's men can expect FC Zürich and BSC Young Boys to give them a game, though, with the latter smarting from losing the title on the final day of last term with a home defeat by Basel.
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