Sparta Prague: Things to know about Liverpool's Europa League opponents

Liverpool face Sparta Prague in the Europa League Last 16. Here's all you need to know about the Czech champions.

Sparta Prague upset Galatasaray in their Europa League Play-Off round, earning a Last 16 clash with Liverpool. The first of the two legs is tonight,with the Czech side hoping to shock the competition favourites.

So what can fans expect from Sparta? Here's all you need to know about the team going into the fixture.

Sparta Prague - who are they?

Sparta Prague are the most successful team in Czech football, having won the title 13 times since the formation of the league in 1993. They were the most successful team in Czechoslovakia, too, winning that competition 21 times.

They're also the Czech side to have gone the furthest in UEFA competitions as they reached the Champions League semi-finals in 1992. Sparta haven't come close to that since, but they're the biggest side in the country.

They're also the reigning champions - their first title since 2014.

Sparta Prague - how have they done this season?

Sparta started the season in the Champions League third qualifying round but fell short. Copenhagen knocked them out, sending the Czech champions into the Europa League.

There they met Rangers, Real Betis and Aris Limassol in the group stage, finishing second behind Rangers. A 1-0 win over Betis at home was the highlight for them - a result that ultimately got them out of the group.

Domestically, Sparta have been great. They're top of the league on 60 points after 23 games, scoring 55 goals and conceding just 15. They're four points clear of rivals Slavia Prague.

Sparta Prague - form

Sparta are in fantastic form. Since losing to Rangers in the Europa League group stage, they've played 18 times in all competitions, winning 16, drawing once and losing once.

Notably, that one draw came in their latest game - a 0-0 with rivals Slavia Prague. Their only defeat was against Galatasaray in the first leg of their Europa League Play-Off round - a result they overturned in the second leg.

There's another notable aspect of their form, however - red cards. There have been five red cards in Sparta's last six games, with three of them for Sparta. The other two were both Galatasaray's.

Sparta have had reds in each of their last two games, too and both were against Slavia. It's interesting, then, that they tend to see reds in high-intensity games. Liverpool beware.

Sparta Prague - formation & players to watch

Sparta typically play in a 3-4-3 formation, with their front three providing their attacking output. Lukas Haraslin is their top goalscorer with 10 this season playing from the left - he was Czech football's top scorer last season.

Jan Kuchta is another to watch as the team's centre-forward. He was Czech football's top scorer in 2021 in a title-winning season for rivals Slavia Prague. He's since jumped ship to Sparta, winning another title last season and playing very well. Seven goals, seven assists for him this season.

Lukas Haraslin, Sparta Prague

L-R Lukas Haraslin Sparta celebrates a goal in the Europa League 2nd round return leg match AC Sparta Prague vs Galatasaray Istanbul, Prague, February 22, 2024. CTKxPhoto/MichalxKamaryt CTKPhotoP2024022209916 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxCZExSVK CTKPhotoP2024022209916

And Veljko Birmancevic plays on the right - another forward providing goals and assists. He's got 10 of the latter and seven of the former.

The three are joint-top scorers in the Europa League for Sparta this season on three each.

Liverpool vs Sparta Prague - Head-to-head

Liverpool have only faced Sparta Prague twice before. Both games were also in the Europa League and came in early 2011 when Kenny Dalglish was boss.

They were not good games. The first leg in Prague finished 0-0 after 90 minutes, while fans at Anfield had to wait until the 86th before Dirk Kuyt scored to make it 1-0. It finished that way.

Hopefully, we don't need to wait quite that long for a goal this time around.

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