SK Slavia Praha coach Anton Mišovec and captain Blanka Pěničková are delighted to be back in Europe ahead of FC Barcelona's visit to the Stadion Eden.
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After a nine-year wait, SK Slavia Praha are back in Europe after ending AC Sparta Praha's stranglehold on the Czech women's title and doing the double to boot.
Now they have a plum tie in the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 32, with FC Barcelona coming to Stadion Eden for the first leg on Wednesday. Having already won 3-0 at Sparta in a fine season start, Slavia are in high spirits and coach Anton Mišovec and captain Blanka Pěničková spoke to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: What was the first reaction when you learned about the draw?
Anton Mišovec: All our players wanted the chance to play against Barcelona. They are attractive opponents, everybody is really looking forward to the games. Nevertheless we hope to prove ourselves with good football and do everything we can to succeed.
Blanka Pěničková: I was watching the draw live. I was really excited as I have been a great Barcelona fan. For all of us in the team it will be the highlight of the season, maybe even of our careers. We are all really looking forward to it.
UEFA.com: How have your preparations for the tie been going?
Mišovec: We started to prepare for this competition before the season with friendlies against Neulengbach; we also played against Bayern and participated in a strong tournament in Hungary. We were trying to get the right experience for such high-level games.
UEFA.com: What kind of matches do you expect?
Pěničková: It will be a very tough start. Barcelona are more experienced in the Women's Champions League, but we will try to compensate with our commitment. They play a similar passing game to us, we know what might be effective and what mistakes we cannot make. I do not think there will be too much respect on our side.
UEFA.com: Czech men's football is known for the Prague rivalry between Slavia and Sparta – is it similarly strong in women's football?
Pěničková: It is a great rivalry, both clubs are the biggest in the Czech Republic. The derby is exceptional at any time. We broke their dominance last season by winning the games against them. We won by three goals in the last game – I cannot even remember the last time this happened.
Mišovec: We would be very happy to remind Europe that we are here as well, as sometimes I have a feeling that people forget that. Sparta dominated over the past ten years, but we took the title last season, defeating them three times, including in the last league match. The rivalry is clear – you always want to win these games.
UEFA.com: The first leg against Barcelona will be played at Stadion Eden, where the 2013 UEFA Super Cup was held. Will this add even more motivation?
Mišovec: It will be extraordinary game for us. The men's team are not playing in Europe so I hope the fans are going to come in large numbers to support us.
Pěničková: For us, it will be a unique occasion to play at Stadion Eden. It will give us even more motivation to earn the chance to repeat the experience [by going through].
UEFA.com: What kind of result would make you happy in the first leg against Barcelona?
Pěničková: I want a draw as a minimum, to have something to play for in the return leg. But I believe we are capable of winning at home.
UEFA.com: Anton, do you agree that a draw would be OK?
Mišovec: I am not a coach who would ever tell the team to play for a draw. We have done our preparations and have a plan to succeed. We are ready to play for a win which would make our journey to Barcelona for the second leg even more interesting.