Tiny Mlada Boleslav in with shot of place in lucrative Champions League

03-08-2006

Without a doubt, football's biggest, most glamorous and exciting club event is the UEFA Champions League. The lucrative competition features many of the game's greatest stars, and is watched by millions around the globe. This season the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Bayern Munich could be joined by the tiny Czech club Mlada Boleslav: they've just reached the final qualifying round and are possibly just 180 minutes away from the big time - and big money.

Mlada Boleslav, photo: CTKMlada Boleslav, photo: CTK Mlada Boleslav are not one of the more glamorous Czech clubs and the town of Mlada Boleslav (population around 100,000) is far better known for producing Skoda cars than producing exciting football teams.

But under young coach Dusan Uhrin Jr (Dusan Sr coached the Czech Republic to the final of Euro '96) they surprised many last season by finishing second in the Czech league. That gave them a berth in the second qualifying stage of the Champions League.

Mlada Boleslav - Valerenga Oslo, photo: CTKMlada Boleslav - Valerenga Oslo, photo: CTK Last week's 3:1 home win over Norwegian side Valerenga set them up well for the second leg in Oslo on Wednesday; a 2:2 draw there was enough to win an unlikely place in the final qualifying round, where they will play Galatasary.

The first leg next week is in Istanbul. Turkish fans are notorious for intimidating visiting teams, which could make home advantage in the second leg even more important for Boleslav.

Overcoming the Turks would be both a remarkable achievement and very lucrative for the Czech club. Qualifying alone guarantees something in the region of 100 m CZK (around 4.5 m USD) with more money for every draw and win. And of course for progression to the knock-out phase.

Mlada Boleslav are not the only team in the final qualifying round for the Champions League - Slovan Liberec won an automatic berth as Czech champions. Their tie has added spice for Czech fans, with opponents Spartak Moscow featuring two Czech international defenders, Radoslav Kovac and Martin Jiranek.

03-08-2006