After a goalless draw in the first leg, Copenhagen will battle Sparta Prague in a winner takes in the second leg of the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. When the two teams last met in Scandinavia, there was no way for either team to advance, giving Sparta a great chance to break their recent third-round hoodoo before a potential playoff matchup with Aris Limassol or Rakow Czestochowa.
Preview (Sparta Prague vs Copenhagen)
Sparta Prague started their search for a spot in the Champions League competition last week after ending a sad nine-year skid without a Czech top-flight championship to their name last season. Many had written them off before they set foot onto the Parken Stadium pitch. Only three shots on target were taken by Brian Priske’s team throughout the entire game, but Copenhagen’s carelessness also came back to haunt them as the Maroons returned to base after a tough draw that would have made Priske the happier manager. The coach, who was born in Denmark, would have had a bigger grin on his face on Saturday when Sparta played Jablonec in the first division.
Copenhagen’s perfect start to the new season on both the domestic and international fronts came to an abrupt end after they defeated Icelandic underdogs Briedablik by eight goals in the second qualifying round. Sparta’s defensive strength was too much for Copenhagen to handle. The Lions did return to form with a Danish Superliga victory over the weekend, keeping them atop the rankings. Copenhagen’s domination was ineffective as Charly Horneman gave OB the lead with 57 minutes remaining.
After a four-game homestand, Copenhagen is now back on the road. They have won all six of their recent competitive away games in all competitions, scoring at least two goals in all but one of those games, and in the past 15 years of European Cup qualifying, they have only experienced one third-round exit. However, they were eliminated after drawing the first leg, losing on penalties in the 2019–20 competition to Red Star, despite winning 3-0 on their sole previous encounter with Sparta Prague in the 2009–10 Europa League group stage.
Asger Sorensen suffered an injury during the first leg of their match against Copenhagen. The 27-year-old recovered quickly in time for the rout of Jablonec. Fellow defender Vitik made a memorable comeback to the starting lineup. The 20-year-old will undoubtedly keep his spot in the starting lineup, replacing Filip Panak. He was unable to participate in Saturday’s victory for unknown reasons. However, there will be alterations further up the field. Veljko Birmancevic’s status in the final third may be in jeopardy because the 25-year-old sat out the triumph over Jablonec after playing for only an hour in Copenhagen. Jan Kuchta and Lukas Haraslin, meanwhile, should both return to the final third.
Copenhagen will still be missing experienced striker Andreas Cornelius (groin) and center-back Davit Khocholava (knee). Midfielder Viktor Claesson has now fully recovered from an injury of his own. Neestrup’s team managed to stave off OB despite their narrow victory. Lerager should almost probably be recalled. Lerager would benefit from taking Claesson’s fitness seriously.
Sparta’s tenacious defense in the first leg was admirable. If the Czech champions are to maintain their European dream, they will likely need to showcase more offensive zeal. It could leave them vulnerable to a goal-happy Copenhagen. Even though we anticipate a few goals in this game, it is still too tough to predict a clear winner. However, Sparta can make a goal from 12 yards out to advance to the group stage with the support of the Prague crowd.
Sparta Prague 2 – 1 Copenhagen
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