What Motherwell can expect from Sparta Prague or Viking - £11.7m transfer, dual-coaching team, 50-goal ace
Motherwell, if they can overcome Sligo Rovers, will face either Sparta Prague or Viking in the third qualifying round of the Conference League.
The Steelmen were handed a somewhat tough draw but first have to take care of business with their two-legged second round tie with Sligo.
If they were to get through that, what lies in store?
Sparta Prague, the Czech giants, are European regulars having played more than 300 games in continental competition. The last time they failed to qualify for Europe was back in the 1981/82 campaign.
Last season was a disappointment for the most successful team in the Czech Republic, finishing third. They also faced Rangers in the Europa League group stages.
Pavel Vrba was sacked in May. The new boss is Brian Priske. A former Danish international who played for Portsmouth, he arrived from Royal Antwerp.
Motherwell won’t have to contend with Adam Hlozek, one of the country's brightest talents. He has been sold to Bayer Leverkusen for £11.7million. The teenager scored double figures in his previous two seasons and already has 15 international caps. Last campaign brought a combined 20 goals and assists
They have replaced him with another Czech international forward in Jan Kuchta. The former Slavia Prague player joined on loan from Lokomotiv Moscow, while money was spent on Lukáš Haraslín who spent last season on loan at the club.
A key issue last campaign was the team's concession of goals. While rivals Slavia and champions Viktoria Plzen conceded 27 and 21 respectively, Sparta shipped 40. A quarter came from headed shots.
Tomas Cvancara, the Czech Under-21 striker, was a smart mid-season pick-up from Jablonec.
Moving onto Viking of Norway. The team qualified due to their third-place finish in Norway in 2021 and the 2022 Eliteserien is already 16 games deep for the club and they sit third once more, five points of Molde who lead the league.
Unusually they have a dual coaching team with Bjarte Lunde Aarsheim and Morten Jensen which raised eyebrows when the decision was made. Both were assistant coaches at the club under Bjarne Berntsen who was surprisingly let go after the 2020 season. The club had to apologise for the way it was handled.
Under Lunde Aarsheim and Jensen, Viking are a side which is possession-based but likes to get the ball forward into dangerous areas. In terms of the league so far, no team has made more passes, more through passes or more final third entries than Viking. They are second for long passes. At the same time no team gives the ball away more.
Their key man is Norwegian international forward Veton Berisha. In his second spell at the club he has 50 goals in 73 appearances. Eight of those have been scored in the league this season. He is more than a goalscorer, however, with five assists also. He is very much the talisman and the Roy of the Rovers figure.
Over the last three years, Danish giants Brondby have pinched not one, not two but three of Viking's stars. First it was Henrik Heggheim then Joe Bell before landing Sebastian Sebulonsen.
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