Gambrinus Liga midway report: Top four
With the resumption of the Gambrinus Liga just a few weeks away, it is the perfect time to look back at each club, look at their autumnal form, and see where they might be headed over the coming months. First up; the top six.
1st – Viktoria Plzeň (34pts)
Season so far: Whilst successful both at home and on the European front, Viktoria have, at times, looked less than convincing. Though they do lead the table at this point, they have a gritty late run to thank in which they won five out of five and four by a solitary goal in low scoring ties. Injuries have perhaps robbed Vrba of utilising all his personnel in the way he wanted, but with everybody coming back to full fitness for February, a strong squad packed with quality will aim to fight for the Gambrinus Liga title and continue to make progress in Europe.
Ins and outs: The table toppers have spared no expense: Pavel Vrba splashed out around £650,000 on Jihlava striker Stanislav Tecl to bolster and reshape his strike-force, while Jan Kovařík has also made the move over to Plzeň to add both quality and depth to the left-hand side. Thankfully Viktoria have kept hold of all their key players, though summer departures do seem highly likely. One who has left though is František Ševinský who has gone back to old club Mladá Boleslav, which could see the defence rather thin on the ground given a sudden injury crisis.
Looking forward: With continued stadium redevelopment afoot and healthy club finances, everything is looking rosy for Viktoria.
2nd – Jablonec (32pts)
Season so far: Few doubt Vaclav Kotal, but not many would have predicted how quickly he would weave together the tools at his disposal into a title-challenging outfit. Alongside Viktoria, they have tasted defeated the least to this point (an tight defeat to Sparta and a valiant display with ten men against Ml.Boleslav the only blots on their record) show that Baumit are made of strong stuff. Things were all looking rosy for an impromptu title charge.
Ins and outs: The arrival of Daniel Rossi (free transfer) from Sigma Olomouc was a coup, the positives vibes though soon unravelled as David Lafata continued his public courtship with Sparta before finally getting his wish, packed up, and went to Prague. Jan Kovařík then followed out of the door shortly after. Reinforcements are in after after some quick work, but replacing Lafata’s goals (40% of Jablonec’s this season) will be nigh on impossible to do immediately.
Looking forward: Jablonec may well be looking over their shoulder as they slide down the table. Hopefully it won’t be as dramatic as last season’s slip. European placement is achievable, if now a tougher task.
3rd – Sparta Praha (31pts)
Season so far: Vítězslav Lavička – in a similar manner to Vrba at Plzeň – is not getting his side to click regularly, yet they just keep on getting results and when it does all come together, they look nigh on unstoppable. A three game losing streak threatened to derail everything as losses to Plzeň and Sigma were inexcusably (for Sparta’s faithful) followed up by a derby day defeat at the hands of near-and-dear-rivals Slavia. But those instances aside, Sparta have picked up the necessary results and are rightly within touching distance of first place.
Ins and outs: What Sparta have quite clearly been lacking is a tenacious pitbull in midfield, and after some protracted negotiations, Lukáš Vácha was signed from Slovan Liberec with David Pavelka, Martin Frýdek and (if rumours are to be believed) some cash heading the opposite direction. Not to let Plzeň outshine them, they spent heavily to claim David Lafata from Jablonec before Roman Bednář signed on a free to expand to swell attacking options. In terms of outgoing, Skalák, Gil and Jirásek have all gone out on loan. Promotions from Sparta’s B side wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Looking forward: The two games against Chelsea have provided a huge financial boost to the club and as such, has given them the chance to reinforce substantially: the league title and more European away days remain imperative objectives.
4th – Sigma Olomouc (27pts)
Season so far: Sigma have blossomed wonderfully, with Martin Pospíšil and Tomáš Hořava continuing their development, rising from league stars to international players over the past couple of months. Further up the field, Michal Ordoš is enjoying a great season in front of goal and has also ascended to the national side; everything is coming together nicely in Olomouc. Successive defeats to Plzeň and Jablonec though have seen them drop points to the top three – a difference that will be incredibly hard to claw back – but a finish within the European slots is not out of the question if the good work of Roman Pivarník continues.
Ins and outs: Daniel Rossi’s departure will leave a hole in the centre of midfield, but the others leaving won’t really effect the squad with Marek Heinz’s move to Znojmo the most intriguing of the lot. The only person who has moved to Olomouc is defender Ondrej Sukup, who garnered quite a bit of attention before picking Sigma as his destination.
Looking forward: No reason why third isn’t attainable. The improvements of the past twelve months has been nothing short of remarkable.