Sparta Prague arrive in Glasgow today ahead of tomorrow’s Europa League clash at Celtic Park top of the Czech league with maximum points from six games. Form in the Europa group stage has not been so kind, they suffered three goal defeats at home to Lille then away to Milan, so ambition to progress will already be tempered.
As winners of the Czech Cup last season, they qualified automatically for the Europa group stage, but could only finish a very distant third in their domestic table. While not having to endure the randomness of qualification is an obvious benefit, they have played only nine competitive games this term. Celtic have played twice as many. At this stage of the season, this feels like a benefit, Celtic are certainly better prepared now than they were nine games ago.
A week ago, with so much on the line against Aberdeen at Hampden, I wanted the trip to Lille out of the way without incident. The points available at Fir Park on Sunday feel significantly more important than those up for grabs against Sparta, but that draw in France gives Celtic a decent fighting chance to progress from this group.
To achieve that, a win will be required against Sparta tomorrow.