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HomeSportsFootballSparta Prague vs Liverpool Match Preview: Europa League 23/24

Sparta Prague vs Liverpool Match Preview: Europa League 23/24

Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool team are chasing the quadruple this season. Despite Klopp announcing his departure from the club at the end of the season, the players have found an extra gear and are performing incredibly well. They have already won the Carabao Cup and now they are set to face their archrivals Manchester United next in the FA Cup. They are also leading the Premier League and now have their sights set on the Europa League as well.

Sparta Praha will host Liverpool in the Round-of-16 fixture of the Europa League. They will be hoping to halt Liverpool’s momentum in the competition. As other favorites for the tournament have been drawn against each other, Liverpool has a great chance to win, and they would like to demonstrate their dominance with a good performance here.

However, with a crucial match against Manchester City – the top 2 teams in the Premier League – coming up shortly after this game, Klopp may be tempted to rest some of his key players, which could provide an opportunity for the Czech side to capitalize on.

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Klopp’s men come into the game on the back of a confidence-inducing 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest where a late winner has the club in high spirits.

Sparta, on the other hand, come into the game in the toughest possible scenario. They have just come out of a gruelling doubleheader against Slavia Prague, their closest rivals for the title. Winning in the quarter-final of the domestic cup before a stalemate in the league, the fixtures would have taken a lot out of them.

Furthermore, they suffered a red card in both games, adding even more pressure and fatigue to the legs. Liverpool would relish the chance of finishing this tie as a contest despite fielding a team that is not first choice.

WHEN AND WHERE

Date: Thursday, 7th March 2024.
Time: 17.45 HRS GMT
Venue: epet ARENA, Prague, Czechia.

MATCH OFFICIALS 

Referee: José María Sánchez
Assistant referees: Raúl Cabañero, Iñigo Prieto
Fourth official: Jesús Gil Manzano
Video Assistant Referee: Juan Martínez Munuera
Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Ricardo de Burgos

TEAM NEWS

Sparta Prague have come through a gauntlet of tough games but they will count their lucky stars because manager Brian Priske almost has a full contingent to choose from. The sending-offs from domestic tournaments don’t carry to Europe so they can call on the services of Jaroslav Zeleny and Angelo Preciado for this one.

Martin Vitik in defence is the leader of their backline and a lot will rest on his shoulders as Prague try to navigate a potentially youthful and boisterous front line.

Lukas Haraslin in attack has been a revelation, scoring 10 and assisting four in just 13 starts. He will be a threat alongside Jan Kuchta. The duo was subbed off in their last league game with the manager eager to keep them fresh for this one.

For Liverpool, team selection is not as straightforward. Klopp’s genius and the ease with which academy players have come into the team has put a blanket on what has been a dire injury situation. Curtis Jones, Ryan Gravenberch and Mohamed Salah have the best chance of being fit for this one but even if they are, Klopp is unlikely to risk them in this game.

Therefore, expect a young lineup mixed with experienced, but fringe players as Liverpool’s first expectation will be to remain competitive for when Sparta Prague visits Anfield.

MATCH ANALYSIS

Liverpool might field a young team, but they will get encouragement from the fact that Sparta Prague’s preferred 3-4-3 system matches up well against their overlapping wing-back setup.

With Prague having just one player out wide, there will be a chance for Liverpool to create overloads on the wings before passing through them with one-touch and incisive efforts. Stretching Prague from one wing to another by constant switch of play, bringing their overlapping fullbacks into the game, and then crossing into space created in the middle is the way to go for Liverpool.

For Sparta, they would probably try to start fast, buoyed by the home atmosphere. They beat Galatasaray 4-1 at home in an extremely clinical display. They would need to take any chance which comes that way here as well. With Liverpool having one eye on the game against Manchester City next, this is Prague’s best chance of going to Anfield with something to cling to.

KEY PLAYERS:

Lukas Haraslin

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27-year-old Haraslin has enjoyed a breakout season so far, with 13 goals and five assists in the league and Europe in just 1300 minutes of playing time. Haraslin enjoys coming off the left wing as an inside forward and unleashes shots at goal from that left half-space.

With Liverpool potentially resting Conor Bradley for this game, Haraslin might have to get through Joe Gomez to have any joy in this game. Haraslin will fancy his dribbling skills and pace from standing start to have the beating of his man and that is something Jurgen Klopp will be wary of. He might start the industrious Harvey Elliott on the right side of his midfield three to combat Haraslin’s threat.

Cody Gakpo

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Gakpo has been thrust into a somewhat unfamiliar role of a leader in attack due to a host of injuries to Liverpool players. He has stepped up fairly well and the Europa League is a competition he has enjoyed this season. He has two goals and two assists in four appearances despite playing only 50% of available minutes.

Against Sparta’s setup of three at the back, the overlapping winger will occupy the fullback and Gakpo cutting inside from the left should leave him in plenty of space.

Expect the Dutchman to add to his goalscoring or assisting tally before being withdrawn to keep him fresh for the City game.

PREDICTED LINEUPS:

Sparta Prague XI: Vindahl-Jensen; Vitik, Panak, Sorensen, Preciado; Laci, Kairinen, Wiesner; Olatunji, Haraslin, Kuchta

Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Gomez, Quansah, Konate, Tsimikas; Elliott, Mac Allister, Bobby Clarke; Gakpo, Danns, Diaz

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