Zimbabwe Internationals Costa Nhamoinesu and Quincy Antipas have stepped up preparations for the Uefa Champions League and Europa League with their respective clubs Sparta Prague and Brondby.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Czech Republic champions Sparta Prague begin their Champions League campaign next week against little-known opponents in what on paper appears like an easy task.
After receiving a first round bye, they are waiting for the winner between Estonia’s Levadia Tallunn and SP La Fiorita of San Marino for the second round which they kickoff at home on July 15.
Levadia are primed for a second round date with Sparta Prague after a 1-0 away win over La Fiorita 1-0 last Tuesday in the first round, first leg.
The return leg will be played this Tuesday.
In gearing up for the more demanding Champions League, Sparta Prague last week set a 10-day training camp in Bruneck, Italy where they will play international friendlies against Russian side Dynamo Moscow today before engaging Swiss outfit FC Basel on Tuesday.
Before leaving for Bruneck, the Czech giants played two local friendlies against FC Hradec Králové and SK Dynamo eské Budjovice which they won 3-1 and 2-0 respectively with Nhamoinesu featuring in the later match.
The Zimbabwean has recovered from a shoulder injury that saw him miss the tail of last season.
“Our main aim is to make it to the Champions League group stages then we will take it up from there,” said Nhamoinesu.
“I am looking forward to enjoying my football at a different level from the usual Czech league. I think everyone in the team understands the meaning of being champions again after three years of waiting. We are not talking much about the Champions League because we prefer to do it on the field. We do not have much time, so we have to keep our focus.”
Sparta Prague are back in the world’s prestigious club football competition after winning the Czech Gambrinus League last season.
They also lifted the Czech Cup last term to claim a double.
Sparta’s Champions League history saw them being semifinalists in 1992 and have thrice reached the quarter finals of the then Uefa Cup Winners Cup – now Europa Cup.
Last year they were booted out of the Europa League by Swedish side Hacken in the preliminary stages with the club’s fans interpreting the early exit as a disaster.
Nhamoinesu becomes the fourth Zimbabwean to play in the Champions League after Benjani Mwaruwari, Norman Mapeza, Kennedy Chihuri and Noel Kaseke.
Mwaruwari and Mapeza played in the prestigious group stages with AJ Auxerre and Galatasaray respectively while Chihuri and Kaseke participated in the preliminary rounds with Slavia Prague and Cypriot side Omonia Nicosia.
In Denmark, Antipas’ Brondby have English giants Liverpool as their sparring partners at Brondby Stadion next week as they ready themselves for the Europa League.
Before meeting Liverpool, they will first play English Championship side Bolton Wanderers at home on Thursday.
Last night, they were billed to play fellow Europa League participants Slovan Liberec of the Czech Republic. They drew 0-0 with Spartak Moscow recently.
The Danish giants begin their Europa League campaign in the third qualifying round with a yet-to-be-known opponent at the end of this month.