UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Sparta date looms for new Slovan boss Chovanec

Jozef Chovanec has taken charge of ŠK Slovan Bratislava, replacing František Straka in the run-up to meeting AC Sparta Praha, where he spent the bulk of his playing career.

Jozef Chovanec during his last spell as Sparta coach, in 2011
Jozef Chovanec during his last spell as Sparta coach, in 2011 ©Getty Images

Jozef Chovanec has replaced former team-mate František Straka as coach of UEFA Europa League contenders ŠK Slovan Bratislava in the run-up to back-to-back Group I meetings with his old club, AC Sparta Praha.

The 54-year-old former Czech Republic coach will lead his new side against FC Spartak Trnava in the league on Sunday before coming face to face with Sparta next Thursday. However, as he spoke at his official unveiling, Chovanec – who coached another Slovak outfit, MFK Ružomberok, earlier this year – was eager to take things one game at a time.

"I like a challenge," the former PSV Eindhoven midfielder said. "How does it feel to be replacing another Sparta man as coach? Sometimes that happens in football. But for now I don't want to think about next week's game against Sparta. I need to focus on the match against Spartak Trnava first."

To make matters more complicated, Chovanec's opposite number at Sparta is another former team-mate. Vitězslav Lavička and Chovanec (and indeed Straka) played together in the Sparta teams that won the 1983/84 and 1987/88 national titles, and were reunited again to win the 1991/92 Czechoslovakian Cup with the Prague side.

Lavička is in his third stint as Sparta coach, while Chovanec has been in charge four times – he replaced Lavička on the bench in 2008 and has also served as the club's general manager and president. "The team has been together for a long time – the players are not being allowed to leave at any cost," he said of the current Sparta squad. "It is a more stable side than when I was there three or four years ago."

With next week's encounter taking place in Chovanec's native Slovakia, the new coach will not make a return to the Stadion Letná until the reverse fixture on 6 November, when he will be hoping to maintain his unbeaten run against the side where he spent the best years of his career. As coach of 1. FK Příbram from 2002–03 he met Sparta three times, earning three draws – 0-0 in Prague and 2-2 and 0-0 at home.

Sparta were Chovanec's first and last club as a defender and midfielder, and he helped them to win six titles in the course of three terms; from 1978–79, 1981–88 and from 1991–95, after a season abroad with PSV. He was briefly player-coach in that final stretch (1994), and took charge again from 1996–97 and in 2008, returning for a third time from 2008–11, during which he secured two more league titles.

However, he was eager to understate the personal dimension to the fixture ahead of his confirmation as Slovan coach. "It will be a federal derby, great for the fans," he said "I spent many years at Sparta, so I am really looking forward to the games. I have a lot of experience, but when I come to Prague, it will be emotional, so I will try to enjoy the occasion. Hopefully my team will also enjoy it too. A lot of people will attend the game. The atmosphere will be excellent."