Preview: Saints vs Sparta

By SFC Media Wed 14 Sep Saints vs Sparta

We provide you with an in-depth match preview, as Southampton prepare to welcome Sparta Praha in the UEFA Europa League.

What is at stake

It's the first match of the UEFA Europa League group stage, and both teams will be desperate to get off to a strong start.

Saints and Sparta each have serious ambitions of reaching the knockout rounds, but will need to finish in the top two of a tough group if they are to get there.

The onus is perhaps more on Southampton in this game, given they are the home team, and they are sure to have strong backing from the St Mary's crowd.

Claude Puel's side will not just want a victory to boost their European prospects, but also to kick-start their season, as they seek a first win of the campaign.

Team news

Southampton will be without Jérémy Pied, who is out with a long-term knee injury, while new signing Sofiane Boufal is still not ready to feature.

Sparta Praha have a concern over midfielder Borek Dočkal, who has been absent for the last few weeks with a knee injury, while Martin Frydek is also a doubt.

Form guide

Southampton’s last five:

• Arsenal (A) L 1-2
• Sunderland (H) D 1-1
• Manchester United (A) L 0-2
• Watford (H) D 0-0
• Athletic Club (H) W 1-0*

*Pre-season fixture

Sparta Praha’s last five:

• Mladá Boleslav (H) D 2-2
• Dukla Praha (A) W 2-0
• SønderjyskE (H) W 3-2
• Jablonec (H) W 3-0
• SønderjyskE (A) D 0-0

Top performers

Dušan Tadić has been one of Southampton's brightest performers in the opening four games of the season, and could well prove key to unlocking the visitors' defence. His trickery and vision played a big role in last season's Europa League win over Vitesse, and Saints will be hoping for some magic from him tomorrow.

Top scorers: Nathan Redmond (1), Jay Rodriguez (1)

Former Arsenal midfielder Tomàš Rosicky rejoined Sparta Praha last month, making his debut as a late substitute in last weekend's 2-2 draw with Mladá Boleslav. He might be 35 now, but he still has plenty of ability and could be a threat if he plays.

Top scorer: David Lafata (4)

Previous meetings

This will be the first time the teams have ever met in a competitive fixture. In fact, it will also be the first time that Southampton have ever faced a side from the Czech Republic.

Did you know?

Sparta Praha reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League last season, before losing to Villarreal.

The Czech side have failed to win any of their last 14 games against English opponents, drawing four and losing ten of those matches.

However, Sparta have lost only one of their last 11 Europa League group stage games – a 2-0 defeat against Swiss club Young Boys two years ago.

Saints are unbeaten at St Mary's in European competition, winning one and drawing two.