Europa League: A low-down on Southampton’s opponents

Sparta Praha

The Saints first match and last away trip of the group will be to Czech side Sparta Prague.

Sparta are a club enriched with European history. Železná Sparta is the most successful club in the Czech Republic and within central Europe. They won the Central European cup, also known as the Mitropa cup, three times, in 1927, 1935 and 1964. Sparta also reached the semifinals of the Champions League during the 1991/92 campaign. Sparta Prague have won 36 league titles and 14 domestic cups. They last won the league during the 2013/14 season where they also added the domestic double that season as they added the Czech Cup to their coveted trophy collection that season. Last season they reached the quarterfinals of the Europa league when they qualified from their group which contained Schalke, APOEL and Asteras. They then went on to beat Krasnodar and Lazio in the knockouts until they were eventually knocked out by Villarreal, losing 6-3 on aggregate

The man at the helm is Zdeněk Ščasný, the former Sparta Prague player is currently in charge for the second time. He left his first stint at the club with a win percentage of 61% and currently boasts a win percentage of 53% during his second tenure. As a manager, he has won two league titles, both with Sparta Prague. He has also won the Czech cup, this time with FK Viktoria Žižkov.

The key player that we need to be wary of is 34-year-old Czech striker David Lafata. Lafata scored 25 goals in all competitions last season, 5 of those coming in the Europa League. He featured twice for his country during the European Championships too, but failed to score in either game. He’s the definition of a poacher, grabbing most goals inside the box, however, he can also score goals in the air as he possesses a powerful header which more often than not, leaves the ball flying past opposition goalkeepers.

One of the most high profile names within the Praha squad is Tomáš Rosický. The former Arsenal man played 170 times for the north London club. Rosicky rejoins the club where it all began this summer after being released by the Gunners. He made his debut for the Praha in 1998.

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