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Who are Sparta Prague? – Liverpool’s Europa League opponents with unbeaten home run

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With Liverpool to face Sparta Prague next up in the Europa League, we took a closer look at their last-16 opponents who have not lost at home this season.

With a surprisingly strong selection of sides in the last 16 of the Europa League, Liverpool supporters were quite pleased when the Reds came out of the hat to play in the Czech Republic.

While the tie against Sparta Prague is definitely a choice we would have made over a long trip to play Qarabag in Azerbaijan, the Czech outfit shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

Are they any good?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC, Thursday, February 17, 2011: AC Sparta Prague players salute their supporters after their goal-less draw with Liverpool during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st leg match at the Letna? Stadion . (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Well, the facts suggest they are. However, this doesn’t mean Liverpool shouldn’t beat them comfortably.

With 60 points won from a possible 69, they are the current Czech champions and lead the way by four points over Slavia Prague – who they contested a 0-0 draw with in the lead-up to the Reds’ visit.

Their neighbours, Slavia, have themselves, drawn AC Milan in the Europa League round of 16.

Sparta are on a great run of form, having won 10 of their last 12 matches, including a win against Real Betis.

That sole defeat in their last 12 games was a 3-2 loss in this competition to Galatasaray in Turkey, a game that saw Sparta twice equalise before the hosts clinched a 90th-minute winner.

 

Who to look out for

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 15: Angelo Preciado of Sparta Prague (R) celebrates with teammate Matej Rynes after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 round of 16 first leg match between Galatasaray A.S. and AC Sparta Praha at Ali Sami Yen Arena on February 15, 2024 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ahmad Mora - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Journalist Bence Bocsak says Ladislav Krejci and Martin Vitik as arguably their biggest threats.

He said on X: “Vitik is a top CB prospect. Krejci is versatile (can play centre-back and central-defensive midfield) and has 25 goal contributions in 44 games across his last two seasons.”

Lukas Haraslin is their top scorer this season (14 in all competitions), often playing from the left, while Jan Kuchta and Veljko Birmancevic have also contributed, scoring 10 and 11 goals respectively so far this campaign.

As their sporting director, former Arsenal player Tomas Rosicky should make the trip to Anfield, too. Their manager is ex-Portsmouth player Brian Priske.

 

How did they reach the last 16

NYON, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 23: A view of the draw results following the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 Round of 16 Draw at the UEFA Headquarters, The House of the European Football, on February 23, 2024 in Nyon, Switzerland (Photo by Kristian Skeie - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Having dropped out of the Champions League after losing on penalties to Copenhagen in the third qualifying round, they drew Rangers, Real Betis and Aris Limassol in the Europa League.

In Group C, a win against Cypriot club Aris Limassol got them off to a good start, but defeat away to Betis put them in a tricky position.

Their next game, a hard-fought 0-0 against Rangers proved the difference maker in the group, as they lost the return match at Ibrox but won their final two matches to progress.

They ultimately finished second in their group, one point behind Rangers but one ahead of Betis.

That meant they were forced to play a play-off round, they faced a Galatasaray side including Dries Mertens, Mauro Icardi and Lucas Torreira.

They made light work of them in the second leg, though, winning 4-1 at home to progress 6-4 on aggregate.

 

Where do Sparta Prague play?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC, Wednesday, February 16, 2011: AC Sparta Prague's players during training at the Letna Stadium ahead of the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 1st leg match against Liverpool. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Letna Stadium has been the home of Sparta Prague since 1917 and is close to the city centre, something that will please travelling Kopites.

Known commercially as the epet ARENA, the ground has a capacity of just under 19,000, meaning it will have been even more difficult than usual for Liverpool fans to get tickets.

They are unbeaten at home this season – if you exclude their loss on penalties in the Champions League to Copenhagen – and have won 16 of those other 18 matches – not an easy place to go!

 

We’ve met before

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND, Thursday, February 24, 2011: Liverpool's team to face AC Sparta Praha; Back Row (L-R) David Ngog, Dirk Kuyt, Martin Kelly, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, goalkeeper Jose Reina, Front Row (L-R) Raul Meireles, Christian Poulsen, Lucas Leiva, Danny Wilson, Daniel Agger and Joe Cole during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 2nd leg match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Take a look at that team! We’ve come a long way since 2011.

The lineup the last time Liverpool played against Sparta Prague was in 2011, this was the team: Reina, Kelly, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Wilson, Meireles, Poulsen, Lucas, Cole, Kuyt, Ngog.

A 0-0 draw away from home was followed by a 1-0 win at Anfield, with Dirk Kuyt the only goalscorer as the Reds progressed to the Europa League last 16.