A little bit about Sparta Prague (AC Sparta Praha as it is called locally) before we analyse the Arsenal team. Actually a lot about the Praha team because they are a team with a lot of history and pride and now with a lot of talented players and a superb record domestically.
Sparta has been the winner of the Czechoslovak/Czech league in 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1985, 1984, 1967, 1965, 1954, 1952, 1948, 1946, 1944, 1939, 1938, 1936, 1932, 1927, 1926, 1922, 1919 and 1912. They have also won the Czech version of the FA cup in 2007, 2006, 2004, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1986, 1984, 1980, 1976, 1975, 1972, 1946, 1944 and 1943. So they have won the league and their domestic cup last year. This season they have won 1 match and drawn 1 in the league so far, which puts them at 5th place currently. They last played the group stages of the Champions League in 2004-05.
Their home ground is the Toyota Arena which can seat about 21000 fans. It looks like a majestic stadium from this pic. Rosicky used to play his trade there when Wenger noticed him.
From the Sparta website on their Champions League Performance:
Sparta has been a regular participant in the UEFA Champions League, the most prestigious European competition, since 1997. The only exception was in 1998/1999 when the club didn’t get past the qualification stage, losing to Dynamo Kiev on penalties. Sparta did qualify during the next three years, however, and in the 1999/2000 and 2001/2002 it won through to the quarter-final stages. In 1999/2000 it actually won its initial group under the management of Ivan Hašek, and was then third in the quarter-final group. In that group Sparta came up against FC Barcelona which went on to reach the semi-finals. In the 2001/2002 season Sparta was drawn against the eventual winners of both the European competitions during the course of its run. Feyenoord Rotterdam lost twice to Sparta in the champions league group stage and managed to qualify for the UEFA Cup which it went on to win. Sparta went on to meet Real Madrid in the quarter final that year. Sparta did not qualify for the group stage in 2002/2003, when it was beaten by the Belgium club Genk in the third round of qualifying. 2003/2004 saw Sparta take on two Italian giants. Initially, the club beat Lazio in the group stage, but after an initial draw Sparta failed to get into the quarter finals past AC Milan. The group stage in 2004/2005 did not work out at all well for Sparta. After drawing with Manchester United at the sold-out Toyota Arena in an even contest, the other matches were lost and the club finished last in the group.
Have to say that team spirit is quite high in the Arsenal team and they are raring to go. It might not be an easy match but as long as they come back with a positive result which leaves us a chance to qualify it should be good enough. Getting into the group stage is a lot of revenue with respect to the TV sponsorship and UEFA grants.
There has been a lot of positives coming out of the match against Fulham. Hleb was unlucky in not getting a penalty in the first half and that early equaliser might have altered the way we played the second half and there could have been more goals in the match. But Hleb’s goal was a rare one from Arsenal where two strikers Persie on the left and Bendtner on the right were shouting for the ball and Hleb just got past the defender with a tap and then slammed it in. I saw the highlights and the bits in some other programs. I cant remember Arsenal scoring like this before. Normally they would have passed and passed inside the box scoring maybe in the 10 opportunity in that phase of play. Hleb had said earlier in the pre-season that he wants to be selfish and score 10 goals.
Talking about the EPL, can Tevez make his mark now? Mark Lawrenson has predicted a draw for Man U’s midweek match against Portsmouth. With Ferguson at the helm and Tevez upfront and Ronaldo in the flanks, its impossible for me to assume that. I would expect a Man U victory.
Tevez was unveiled yesterday as the new no.32