Two leading Spanish clubs and a French one may have been caught by surprise by FC Slovan Liberec, but BV Borussia Dortmund are hoping that a little inside knowledge and a good luck charm will help them avoid the same pitfall in tonight’s UEFA Cup quarter-final, first leg in Prague.
Tomášz Rosicky, Dortmund’s Czech playmaker, used to play for Slovan’s rivals AC Sparta Praha, on whose ground tonight’s match will be played, and he will also go into the game fortified by the knowledge that he always finished on the winning side against Slovan during his days in the 1. Liga. "They are extremely dangerous, but I have always won against them," said Rosicky.
Rosicky knows that he cannot expect a "special welcome home" from his fellow countrymen and has warned that Slovan have "a few good football players and a few that fight a lot". RC Celta de Vigo, RCD Mallorca and more recently Olympique Lyonnais are among those who will testify to Slovan’s battling qualities, but the team have not received the credit they deserve for the quality of their football.
When Slovan were forced to move their previous home tie in the UEFA Cup against Lyon to the Letná stadium because of the poor condition of their pitch at the U Nisy stadium, it was felt that the better surface would favour the French club’s more technical players. Yet it was Slovan who ultimately played the better football, scoring three times in the last 15 minutes to run out deserving, if slightly flattering, 4-1 winners on the night.
There is no doubt that in Jirí Štajner the Czech Republic side possess a formidable player who might have made a name for himself at the FIFA World Cup finals had the Czech Republic not slipped up in the play-offs against Belgium. A powerfully built and hard-working midfielder, Štajner will ensure that the talented young Rosicky - another who would have graced the Far East tournament this summer - does not have things all his own way in midfield.
Confident of victory
Again Ladislav Skorpil’s side are having to play the game at the home of rivals Sparta Praha. Štajner believed that the game should have gone ahead at their own stadium, whose pitch, though lacking grass, was at least flat and firm. "The surface is not so bad as to be unplayable, but Lyon didn’t want to play there, so UEFA didn’t send Dortmund there either." Yet Slovan are confident of winning wherever the game is played, particularly after the victory over Lyon.
'We are playing against quality'
Matthias Sammer, Dortmund’s coach, has warned his players not to underestimate them. "Some people think we are already through to the semi-finals," he said. "Well, we do not have to play a big name, but we are playing against real quality." Otto Addo, the Dortmund striker, is more forthright about his side’s chances. "We are Dortmund and we should always go for three points, even on the road," he said. "I am certain we will win 2-1."
Dortmund will be without the German international Stefan Reuter, who is suspended, and also Sebastian Kehl, who is ineligible. But back after injury problems are Lars Ricken, Jörg Heinrich and Miroslav Stevic, while their attack will include another Czech, Jan Koller, who will have his own reasons for wanting to do well at the Letna stadium. As a Sparta Praha player, he failed to make the grade because of his alleged clumsiness.
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