CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look at Thursday’s Europa League match between Sparta Prague and Southampton.
Sparta Prague v Southampton | Thursday 18:00 | BT Sport Europe
It’s hard not to be impressed by how Sparta Prague have handled this competition over the last year and a bit. In the group stage last season they took 12 points out of 18 finishing second behind Schalke and then got all the way to the Quarter-Finals.
The Czech side beat Russians Krasnodar in the Last 32 before pulling off a big upset by knocking out Lazio in the Last 16. A stunning 3-0 win in Italy was one of their finest results in recent times.
This season they’ve picked up from where they left off with a very smart performance in the group stages so far. After receiving a bit of a doing in Southampton in the opening matchday they’ve picked up from there to win their next three matches.
First up Inter were shown the door with a 3-1 win that further damaged Frank De Boer before two fine wins against Hapoel Beer Sheva. The 1-0 and 2-0 wins respectively has put Zdenek Scasny’s side top of the table.
Southampton have had a wobbly time in the Premier League recently with just one win in their last six matches but have performed with credit in this group with convincing wins over Sparta and Inter.
Worryingly for Saints at the weekend was the fact that they had no shots on target against Liverpool and indeed their away games in this competition have been fairly flat affairs with a 1-0 loss in Milan following a 0-0 draw in Israel.
Sparta come into this game having won their last five home matches and have kept clean sheets in their last four of those games. At 61/20 you can certainly make a case for them.
I’m happy to get with the draw here at a decent 23/10. While Southampton are the better side it seems foolish to dismiss Sparta on their home form. A draw would suit both sides within the shape of this group and a low scoring draw looks likely due to Prague’s frugalness at the back and Saints’ struggles up top.
Sparta Prague v Southampton – Draw (23/10 Bet365)