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Exclusive: The inside view on Slavia Prague

Arsenal face Slavia Prague in the Champions League tonight as they strive to secure their place in the draw for the first knockout stage of the competition.

In anticipation of the match in Prague, ArsenalPies spoke exclusively to Ondrej Zlámal – the Czech outfit’s official club spokesman.

Here’s his lowdown on the match including thoughts on the reverse fixture last month and team news ahead of this evening’s encounter:

1. What did Slavia fans make of their trip to London? Our fans were very impressed by them for the unwavering support of their side despite losing 7-0.

"There are many reasons why our supporters enjoyed going to London to one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world. They were not angry with the players who were trying to play open football agaisnt Arsenal and were heavily punished for this.

"Our thank-you ritual is done after all the matches, it is called 'We Are Always With You' and goes: "Red and white, fighting force. Slavia! Prague! We are always with you! Even after a loss, after a loss. Long live Slavia!"

2. It has been a long journey for Slavia to reach the premier competition in European club football but you're riding high in your domestic league at the moment?

"We are in the Champions League for the first time, it was our dream to qualify as we have failed six times previously. We have had a great season so far, we are top of the league and after fourteen years we finally managed to win the away derby with Sparta Prague."

3. Were Arsenal better than Slavia anticipated at Emirates Stadium?

"No, they were as superb as we had anticipated. Maybe we should have played more defensive football, trying to kick the ball into the stands instead of passing it. But we also made terrible mistakes in the first half. That is how the players and coach saw it. The result is nevertheless shameful."

4. What positives did Slavia take from the first match?

"Even from such a game you may take experience. It was a lesson, hard but we clearly saw how far we have to go in the future."

5. What is the injury news ahead of tonight's game?

"We will be missing our captain and top-scorer Stanislav Vlček [pictured]. But the important central defender Brabec and midfielder and former Liverpool Champions League winner Vladimir Smicer are back."

6. How highly do Slavia rate Arsenal?

"We think Arsenal is one of the best teams in the world. We all in the club also appreciated all the organisational things in London and the friendly way we all were treated."

7. Were Slavia fans happy with Cesc Fabregas for his 'argument' with your fierce rivals, Sparta's Tomas Repka earlier in the campaign?

"We do not like Sparta, if I should say it in a diplomatic way. Tomas Repka is not popular either. We are happy that in our squad we have different types of footballers."

8. Which Arsenal players worry you most?

"All of them! You have marvellous squad."

9. What kind of reception can Arsenal fans expect at your stadium tomorrow night?

"We hope that both sectors will enjoy the game. There is no need of anything negative to be heard. We've never had problems with any opposition fans apart from our local derby. I hope your fans will like Prague as well as the match. Hopefully we will show you more of our footballing skills."

Picture: Getty Images

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Posted by Mo Khan on November 7, 2007 12:04 PM in
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