Liverpool return to European action on Thursday with a trip to the Czech Republic. We look ahead to this UEFA Europa League last-16 first leg with our Sparta Prague vs Liverpool prediction and preview.

Sparta Prague vs Liverpool Stats: The Quick Hits

  • The Opta supercomputer predicts Liverpool will win this first leg, doing so 48.2% of the time in the pre-match simulations.
  • Liverpool won the only previous European tie between these two teams, beating Sparta Prague 1-0 on aggregate in the Europa League in 2010-11.
  • Sparta have only ever beaten one English team in a European game, but that was their last one.

Match Preview

It’s the Patrik Berger derby.

Liverpool remain in the hunt for a quadruple after recently lifting the EFL Cup, while they are in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, sit top of the Premier League with 11 games remaining and this week are back in UEFA Europa League action for the first time since December as they travel to take on Sparta Prague in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Jürgen Klopp’s side are not the only ones leading their league, though. Sparta Prague top the Czech First League ahead of rivals Slavia Prague, with whom they drew 0-0 at the weekend, and have lost just once in the league all season (W19 D3).

The Czech side finished second in their Europa League group this season behind Rangers and ahead of Real Betis and Aris Limassol, before impressively beating Galatasaray 6-4 on aggregate in the play-off round.

Sparta vs Galatasaray xG race

Sparta Prague don’t have a great record against English teams, though, having only won one of their last 16 competitive games against them (D4 L11). However, that victory came in their most recent clash with a (then) Premier League side, beating Southampton 1-0 in the 2016-17 Europa League group stage.

They also don’t traditionally do well in the first leg of European ties, having only won the first game in one of their last 10 two-legged knockout ties in major UEFA competitions (D4 L5), which was a 1-0 victory over FK Krasnodar in the 2016-17 Europa League at the last-32 stage.

Liverpool also come into this contest with a record to improve on, as they are winless in their last 11 away games in the knockout stage of the Europa League (D4 L7). They haven’t recorded a victory on the road in a two-legged tie in the competition since a 3-1 win at Unirea Urziceni in the 2009-10 last 32.

Klopp’s men eased through their group, finishing ahead of Toulouse, Union Saint-Gilloise and LASK. They did lose two of their four games (W4), which both came away from home, though the second of those was against Union SG after they had already sealed top spot and made a number of changes to the team.

Sparta will need to be on their toes. Liverpool are averaging more high turnovers per game (11.7) than any other team in this season’s Europa League, also averaging 6.8 opposition passes per defensive action (PPDA), the fewest of any side in the competition.

The Reds have had plenty of injury headaches to deal with in recent times, and with a Premier League clash with Manchester City on Sunday to prepare for, could look to wrap some players in cotton wool for the match in Prague.

On the other hand, recent returnees Dominik Szoboszlai and Darwin Núñez could perhaps do with some minutes for rhythm, while captain Virgil van Dijk may continue to lead by example by taking to the field. The Dutchman has played at least 277 minutes more than any of his teammates in all competitions this season (2,718 minutes).

The visitors will need to keep an eye on Sparta winger Lukás Haraslín, who has 13 goals and five assists in 25 games across the league and Europa League this season, while attacking midfielder Veljko Birmancevic has 10 goals and nine assists in 27 games, leading the Czech top flight for assists.

Lukás Haraslín Sparta Prague

Sparta Prague vs Liverpool Head-to-Head

The clash at Letná Stadium on Thursday will be just the third competitive game between these two teams.

Their only previous European meetings were across two legs in the Europa League last 32 in 2010-11. A goalless draw in Prague led to a tense second leg at Anfield, which Liverpool won 1-0 thanks to Dirk Kuyt’s 86th-minute goal.

Liverpool v Sparta stats 10-11

Recent Form

Sparta Prague have not lost in the Czech First League since late October, when they were beaten 3-1 away at Mladá Boleslav. Their last two defeats in all competitions both came in the Europa League, losing 2-1 at Rangers in November before being beaten 3-2 at Galatasaray in the first leg of their play-off tie (they won the second leg 4-1).

Brian Priske’s side were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw at home to Slavia Prague on Sunday, a game in which Ángelo Preciado was sent off with four minutes of normal time remaining.

Since their last Europa League game, Liverpool have played 18 times in all competitions, winning 13, drawing four and losing just one, while one of those draws was the EFL Cup final that they ultimately won 1-0 in extra time against Chelsea.

That win at Wembley was followed by a 1-0 victory at Nottingham Forest on Saturday that saw Núñez score the latest winner in a Premier League game in the club’s history.

Opta Power Rankings

The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.

Ahead of kick-off on Thursday night, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.

Sparta Prague vs Liverpool Prediction

Sparta Prague vs Liverpool Prediction

Despite possibly having one eye on the Man City game as well as their numerous absentees, Liverpool are expected to take a first-leg lead back to Anfield with them.

Of 10,000 match simulations conducted ahead of kick-off by the Opta supercomputer, the Reds won 48.2% compared to Sparta Prague’s 27.5%, with the remaining 24.3% finishing level.

The Premier League club progress from this tie in 80.9% of the supercomputer’s simulations, meanwhile, and go on to win the Europa League in 29.9% of our tournament projections (more than any other team).

Sparta Prague are given just a 19.1% chance of progressing past Liverpool, and a 0.7% chance of lifting the trophy in Dublin in May. Only Rangers (0.6%) and Qarabag (0.1%) have a lower likelihood.

Europa League Predictions

Sparta Prague vs Liverpool UEL Squads

Sparta Prague: Peter Vindahl, Vojtech Vorel, Jakub Surovcík, Ángelo Preciado, Jan Mejdr, Asger Sørensen, Patrik Vydra, Filip Panák, Tomás Wiesner, Jaroslav Zeleny, Ladislav Krejcí, Martin Vitik, Markus Solbakken, Kaan Kairinen, David Pavelka, Adam Karabec, Veljko Birmancevic, Lukás Sadílek, Qazim Laçi, Jakub Pesek, Lukás Haraslín, Michal Sevcik, Matej Rynes, Victor Olatunji, Jan Kuchta, Indrit Tuci.

Head Coach: Brian Priske

Liverpool: Alisson, Adrián, Caoimhin Kelleher, Vitezslav Jaroš, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konaté, Jarell Quansah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Bradley, Andrew Robertson, Kostas Tsimikas, Wataru Endo, Thiago Alcántara, Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Ryan Gravenberch, Bobby Clark, Luis Díaz, Darwin Núñez, Mohamed Salah, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota, Ben Doak.

Head Coach: Jürgen Klopp

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