European Group C football league in the draw on September 1, 2023 in Monaco.
Prague – Sparta footballers have called the Europa League group with Glasgow Rangers, Betis Sevilla and Aris Limassol interesting and playable. The Danish coach of Prague, Brian Priske, considers it important that his charges manage home games. In an interview for club television, he stated that it would be fantastic if the reigning Czech champions continued in the European Cup after Christmas.
Photo gallery: European Football League 2023/24
Sparta was eliminated in the qualification of the Champions League with FC Copenhagen after a penalty shootout and in the final 4th preliminary round of the Europa League, it was close to “relegation” to the Conference League. Dinamo Zagreb lost the first match 1-3 at home, but won a surprising 4-1 in the second leg on Thursday and advanced to the group of the second most prestigious cup competition.
“It's quite an interesting group. They were bigger and for the viewer more interesting clubs, but I think it's a good balance between the teams being interesting and not being pushed away from us. I'd say it's a pretty playable group. It's going to be tough, but I believe we can handle the games and we could look further,” said defender or midfielder Jaroslav Zelený.
“It's a playable group and I hope we'll be successful. If we play at home in front of great fans, I believe we have a chance to advance,” said midfielder Jakub Pešek.
Coach Priske with reflections on his team's chances didn't want to deal with. “It is too early to ask this question after the draw. We need to collect as many points as possible. It would be fantastic if we could play the European Cups after Christmas as well. We will do our best for that,” he noted.
The group stage of the Europa League will begin on Thursday 21 September and culminate in the sixth round on 14 December. In the spring, three of the four teams in the individual tables will continue. The first teams from each group will advance to the round of 16, while the second-placed teams will compete in the play-offs for advancement to the same stage with the third-placed teams in the Champions League. Teams in third place will move to the lower European conference league.
Priske considers all opponents to be of good quality. “We have good matches ahead of us. At the same time, it's different types of teams. The Spanish are known for their technical qualities. It will be a very difficult task, just like Limassol, which has individually well-equipped players,” said the former coach of Midtjylland and Antwerp.
According to him, domestic duels will be important. “We already felt this season during the European games that they can transfer something magical to our team. If we win as many games as possible at home, we will be on the right track. We have a lot of respect for our opponents. It will be six tough games,” said Priske.
The defender of the Czech title, of the opponents that he was drawn with in Monaco today, has only faced Scottish Rangers in the past, most recently in the main phase of the Europa League two years ago. The double match was accompanied by great passions. After the match in Prague, then Rangers coach Steven Gerrard criticized the booing of the Spartan kids at dark-skinned midfielder Glen Kamara, who was sent off. There were no adult fans at Letná due to the disciplinary punishment for the racism of some of the fans in the 3rd preliminary round match of the Champions League with Monaco in August, the exception being the accompaniment of almost 11,000 children.
Gerrard later expressed his surprise and disappointment at UEFA's verdict not to punish Sparta for unproven racist behavior of viewers. Politicians also intervened in the case, and the chairman of the Football Association of the Czech Republic (FAČR), Petr Fousek, defended the Letenskýs. Finnish international Kamara is now at Leeds, where he joined on Thursday, just a day before the draw.
“I played against Rangers at home, unfortunately I didn't play away. At home it was one of the nicest games I remember. They were small fans there, beautiful atmosphere. I believe that the fans will drive us again and that it will be a nice match for everyone,” said Pešek.