Monday's Prague derby could be even tenser than usual with SK Slavia Praha desperate to retain top spot as second-placed AC Sparta Praha visit the Strahov Stadium.
Two points clear in the Czech 1. Liga, Slavia will be playing their final derby at the Strahov Stadium which has been their temporary residence for eight years. Their new home in Eden will open in May, with English club Oxford United FC – Slavia's first ever opponents – lined up to contest the inaugural game before the Czech Republic play Lithuania there on 27 May.
By then, Slavia could have claimed their second title since independence – the first arrived in 1995/96. However, that may depend on them getting the better of Sparta, who have consistently outdone their neighbours before, during and after the days of the former Czechoslovakia. Sparta boast 31 championships to Slavia's 14.
Sparta have started 2008 in tremendous form with five wins from six league matches since the winter break. Had they not drawn 0-0 at SK Sigma Olomouc on 3 March, they would be in pole position. Their run has yielded 14 goals – with five going to Miroslav Slepička, who has thrived as a lone striker in front of a five-man midfield and now has ten goals for the campaign. Notable results include a 6-1 battering of FK Viktoria Žižkov and a 4-1 win at FK Mladá Boleslav – a first away victory over the 2005/06 league runners-up.
By contrast, Slavia saw their ten-game unbeaten sequence end on 25 February when they fell 2-1 at 1. FC Brno. More worryingly, perhaps, coach Karel Jarolím has yet to properly replace striker Stanislav Vlček who left for RSC Anderlecht in January. F.Y.R. Macedonia forward Goce Toleski, who netted eight times for struggling FK SIAD Most in the autumn, has scored just once since signing and, against Sparta, Slavia will have Erich Brabec and Jan Blažek suspended and Vladimír Šmicer injured. Sparta have a full squad available.
Nevertheless, home advantage is with Jarolím's men, and having prevailed 2-0 at Sparta in October, they can also take comfort from the fact they have not lost at home to their arch-rivals since March 2004. Midfielder Martin Abraham, who joined Slavia from Sparta just hours before the spring kick-off, may yet have made a wise move.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.