EL Preview: FC Rostov vs. Sparta Prague

Sparta Prague returns to competitive football looking to reach Europa League last-16

FC Rostov plays Sparta Prague in the first leg Europa League Round of 32 on Feb. 16 at 19:00.

Sparta Prague’s reward for topping their Europa League group sees them come up against FC Rostov, one of the surprise packages of European football this season. The Czech side will travel to Russia for the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in what will be the first meeting between the two sides.

Sparta Prague, the only Czech side still in a European competition, heads into Europa League knockout stages having not played a competitive fixture since Oct. 16. The Czech Premier League is going through its annual winter break, but the side has performed well in friendly matches, most recently beating fellow Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0. On the other hand FC Rostov is unbeaten in their last four matches in the Russian Premier League, a run that sees them currently sitting in seventh.

Sparta Prague enjoyed a successful group stage, overcoming tough opposition to clinch top spot and face off against the Champions League drop-outs. Sparta was pitted against Italian giants Inter Milan, Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva and established Premier League side Southampton. A 3-0 opening round defeat away at Southampton provided an instant indication of the difficulties Sparta would face in their group, but only die-hard Sparta fans could have foreseen what was to come.

The club went on to win their next four matches in the group, including a memorable 3-1 victory over Inter Milan on home soil. Successive victories over Hapoel followed to put them in a commanding position. In the reverse match against Southampton, a narrow 1-0 victory saw them qualify top of their group with a game to spare. Even a final round loss away at Inter Milan failed to take the gloss off an impressive group campaign.

They face no easy task at the Olimp-2 Stadium, however, as FC Rostov is undergoing the most memorable season in the club’s history. Qualification to the Champions League was a possibility following a second-place finish in last season’s Russian Premier League. Champions League qualifying victories over Anderlecht and a stunning two-leg victory over Ajax saw them reach their first group stage of a European tournament.

Their group would prove too much for the Russian side, being drawn with Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and PSV Eindhoven. Two draws against PSV Eindhoven would go down as historic moments in the club’s history but, in arguably one of the greatest Champions League shocks of all time, they beat a star-studded Bayern Munich 3-2 at home. That unbelievable result saw them finish above PSV in the group and into third, guaranteeing them a Europa League spot.

You can watch the first leg of FC Rostov vs. Sparta Prague live on CT Sport on Feb, 16 from 19:00.

UEFA Europa League www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague
AC Sparta Prague www.sparta.cz (ENG)
FC Rostov www.fc-rostov.ru (RU)

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