They may be separated by only five points in the table but SK Slavia Praha and AC Sparta Praha appear light years apart in both form and confidence after this week's Prague derby. Slavia won 4-1 at Sparta on Monday to top the Czech 1. Liga and pile more misery on third-placed Sparta, whose manager Vítězslav Lavička may face the threat of dismissal.
Slavia's triumph was the most resounding in a Prague derby since 1951. It was inspired by former Czech international Vladimír Šmicer who scored twice on his first start for the visitors this season, having overcome a persistent achilles injury. The 35-year-old notched his first goal in the fifth minute at the Sparta Stadium before adding a second on 69 minutes. In between times Mickaël Tavares scored, as did Zdeněk Šenkeřík late on; Kamil Vacek got a consolation for the hosts.
The win gave Slavia a two-point cushion as league leaders and there is every reason to believe they will stay there. Karel Jarolím's men are unbeaten in the 1. Liga since losing to FC Slovan Liberec on the opening day, and in Tomáš Necid they have division's outstanding marksman: the 19-year-old has plundered seven goals in nine matches. In addition, the Czech titleholders are the country's sole survivors in Europe, although Tuesday's UEFA Cup draw placed them in a tough group alongside Hamburger SV, AFC Ajax, Aston Villa FC and MŠK Žilina.
For Sparta there are graver worries. They have lost their last two league games – including a 3-0 defeat at Liberec on 29 September – and trail second-placed FK Mladá Boleslav by three points in the standings. Their continental campaign was also ended by an away-goals loss to NK Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Cup first round. Little wonder Lavička is under pressure, amid speculation the 45-year-old could lose his job should Sparta fail to beat lowly FC Viktoria Plzeň later this month.
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