Every year there’s a cinderella story in the UEFA Europa League, right?
We can normally find teams that are not expected to reach the latter stages of the tournament sneaking into the Round of 16 or even the quarterfinals from time to time. Last year it was Salzburg, as they got past several top teams in the knockout stages before getting eliminated by Marseille during the semifinals. And this year it’s the turn of Slavia Prague. The Czech giants have been enjoying a great season, and their Europa League campaign is the best proof of that.
What have Slavia done in the Europa League this season?
The Czech side finished in second place of their group stage where they had to face three complicated sides such as Bordeaux (France), Zenit (Russia) and FC Copenhagen (Denmark). On paper Slavia looked like the weakest link, but they surprised everyone and finished in second place thanks to a W3, D1, L2 mark. They fell behind Zenit, but topped Copenhagen and Bordeaux.
On the Round of 32 they were squared against Genk, one of the best teams in the group stage. However, they secured a 4-1 win on the aggregate score and moved onto the Round of 16 where they took on Sevilla. One of the most heralded teams in the Europa League, the Spanish giants were heavy favourites to advance. But Slavia pulled the shocker once again. They won 6-5 on the aggregate score and the second leg needed extra time, but Slavia surprisingly eliminated Sevilla.
Now they will face Chelsea in the quarterfinals. That’s even more complicated, but Slavia have already shown they can compete toe-to-toe against any side in the competition.
Who’s their player to watch?
Undoubtedly, we must mention Miroslav Stoch here. Some might remember the Slovakian due to his tenure with Chelsea in the Premier League, but he never managed to settle in England and instead chose to make a career elsewhere. After playing for Twente and Fenerbahce, he seems to have found a home with Slavia Prague.
The 29-year-old is known for his blistering pace and dribbling ability, but this season he has also emerged as a reliable scoring threat. Stoch has 11 goals with nine assists in 24 league appearances for Slavia, while also adding two goals and two assists in 10 Europa League outings. By all accounts, he’s been one of the most important players for Slavia. And he will need to be at his best when facing Chelsea. Which leads us to…
Can they really get through one more round?
To be fair, there’s a big chance Slavia won’t make it past Chelsea during the tournament’s quarterfinals. But who can take away their right to dream? They have been playing better and better as the season progresses. Plus, they should have their morale at an all-time high following their impressive win over Sevilla in the Round of 16.
At this point, they just need to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. They’ve already reached further than what anyone would have expected them to do so. And undoubtedly, fans will remember this thrilling European run for a very, very long time.
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