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Liverpool vs. Sparta Prague: 10 key things to know with quarter-final within reach

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Liverpool take a 5-1 lead into their Europa League last-16 tie with Sparta Prague, with comfortable progression to the quarter-finals expected.

Liverpool vs. Sparta Prague

Europa League Last 16 Second Leg | Anfield
March 14, 2024 | 8pm (GMT)


The Reds comprehensively outplayed the Czech side last Thursday, putting themselves in total control of the tie.

This week, the main aim for Jurgen Klopp‘s side is to avoid a stunning European exit – though it would take something extraordinary for that to happen thanks to a four-goal first leg advantage.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of Thursday’s match.

 

1. Bigger Anfield tests lie ahead

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There are some gargantuan games on the horizon in the coming weeks, with Anfield hosting five more Premier League games in the title battle.

Every match is important between now and Klopp’s exit this summer, but the visit of Sparta should (hopefully) be more of a procession than anything.

Last week’s 5-1 romp in Prague showed the gulf between the two sides and it will allow the manager to rotate his squad – as much as he can amid the injuries – ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup trip to Man United.

Sparta still need to be shown respect – something that Klopp will ensure happens – but this may be one of the more low-key Anfield occasions of the season.

 

2. Sparta with nothing to lose

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - Thursday, March 7, 2024: Liverpool's Wataru End? (L) ans Sparta Praha's Lukáš Haraslín during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match between AC Sparta Praha and Liverpool FC at Stadion Letná. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sparta’s home crowd did their best to create an intimidating atmosphere in the first leg, but they were flattened by each Liverpool goal.

They need to believe that anything is possible, and dressing room footage from the first leg suggests their manager, Brian Priske, will not be short on pre-match inspiration.

Sparta’s travelling fans have a special trip to Anfield to look forward to, making just their second visit to Liverpool’s world-famous ground, and they will make their voices heard.

Frankly, the thought of Priske’s side going through doesn’t even bear thinking about from a Reds perspective!

 

3. Who’s out for Liverpool?

Liverpool’s injury situation looks a littlre more positive than it did a few weeks ago, as key players steadily return to the fold.

Ibrahima Konate won’t feature against Sparta, however, with an injury suffered in Prague still keeping him out – a return on Sunday is on the cards hopefully.

Ryan Gravenberch was involved in training on Wednesday, though, and could be ahead of schedule for a return from his ankle injury, a place on the bench perhaps?

Mohamed Salah is “ready to start”, according to Klopp, and a place in the XI would be the first time since January 1.

Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota are all big-name absentees, joining Joel Matip, Thiago and Ben Doak on the sidelines.

Stefan Bajcetic is training away from his teammates, but the Spaniard’s comeback may well not arrive until next season.

 

4. Possible Reds XI

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's Bobby Clark during the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given the size of Liverpool’s lead from the first leg and the fact that United game is looming this weekend, changes are to be expected.

It would be a huge surprise if Virgil van Dijk was risked, for example, so another start should come the way of the impressive Jarell Quansah.

Andy Robertson needs minutes and may start at left-back – Kostas Tsimikas could easily get the nod – while youngsters James McConnell and Bobby Clark have a good chance of featuring in midfield.

Salah could be in the starting lineup, as abovementioned, and Lewis Koumas may earn another start after his goalscoring debut.

And dare we say even Adrian could be considered to give Caoimhin Kelleher a break?

Predicted Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Bradley, Quansah, Gomez, Tsimikas; McConnell, Szoboszlai, Clark; Salah, Koumas, Gakpo

 

5. Sparta Prague team news

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - Wednesday, March 6, 2024: Sparta Praha's logo on a seat seen before at the Stadion Letná ahead of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match between AC Sparta Praha and Liverpool FC. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Asger Sorensen picked up a hamstring injury in the first leg and he is expected to be out of Thursday’s return fixture for the visitors.

Meanwhile, midfield pair Jakub Pesek and David Pavelka are both out.

On the plus side for Sparta, centre-back Filip Panak returned to action in his side’s 4-0 defeat to third-placed Viktoria Plzen last weekend and he is expected to be in the XI.

Possible Sparta XI: Jensen; Vitik, Krejci, Panak; Preciado, Kairinen, Solbakken, Zeleny; Birmancevic, Kuchta, Haraslin

 

6. Klopp had talks with Edwards – “Top” appointment

Speaking in front of the media on Wednesday, Klopp confirmed that he has had talks with Michael Edwards, ahead of his return as Liverpool’s CEO of Football:

“We had a conversation, Michael and I always had a really good relationship, was always very good on a professional basis.

“A lot of good things happened when we were here together, and Michael decided to do something else. Now he’s back, I’m really happy.

“I’ve said it a few times, I want to see the club in the best possible place after I left, everything we can do as long as I’m here I will do.

“After that, other people have to do it and I think it’s a top solution, honestly. Our conversation was great, we spoke about a lot things, players, the situation of the club as I was in and he wasn’t.

“What has changed, what might have to change. A really good talk. I think it’s top news for the club.”

 

7. Jurgen’s incredible European record

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - Thursday, March 7, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match between AC Sparta Praha and Liverpool FC at Stadion Letná. Liverpool won 5-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What Klopp has achieved in Europe as Liverpool manager has been remarkable, among so many other great achievements.

The German has taken charge of the Reds in more European games than any other manager, with Thursday’s game his 89th outing in total.

Should Liverpool progress to the quarters, it will be the sixth time in nine seasons that Klopp has reached that stage in Europe – four times in the Champions League and twice in the Europa League.

A fifth European final under Klopp will hopefully be reached in May and we could only have dreamed of that tally when he arrived in 2015.

How lucky are we!

 

8. Did You Know?

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - Thursday, December 14, 2023: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott applauds the supporters after the UEFA Europa League Group E matchday 6 game between Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Liverpool FC at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Union SG won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Harvey Elliott may well earn a rest at Anfield, but should he start, his admirable record in the Europa League this season will continue.

The 20-year-old has played every minute in the competition in 2023/24 to date, which is a testament to his fitness levels.

Only Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo (both 40) have made more appearances than Elliott (39) in all competitions this season, as he becomes more influential by the week.

Who would have predicted that back in August?

 

9. Who’s the referee at Anfield?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 13, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates with team-mate Joël Matip after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Artur Soares Dias will take charge of Thursday’s match, with the 44-year-old refereeing a Liverpool game for only the second time.

The first was the Reds’ 2-1 win at home to Ajax in the Champions League group stage back in September 2022, with Salah and Matip getting the goals.

This will be Dias’ maiden Europa League outing of the season, having overseen three Champions League games – RB Leipzig 1-3 Man City, Newcastle 0-1 Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal 6-0 Lens.

 

10. Follow the game with TIA

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - Wednesday, March 6, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during a press conference at the Stadion Letná ahead of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match between AC Sparta Praha and Liverpool FC. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool vs. Sparta Prague is live on TNT Sports 1 from 7.45pm (UK), with kickoff at Anfield at 8pm.

TIA’s matchday live blog will be in full flow from 7.15pm and Henry Jackson is tasked with keeping you company throughout the evening.

Come on you Reds!