Our prediction for this Europa League match:
Galatasaray will be aiming to extend their winning run to nine games when they take on Sparta Prague in the first leg of the Europa League last 32. Galatasaray are in a two-horse title race with Fenerbahce in the national championship, but they have big ambitions for the Europa League knockout stages as well. A man to keep an eye on in the home team will be former Napoli man Dries Mertens, who sealed the victory against Basaksehir at the weekend, while the likes of Oliveira, Ziyech, and Bardakci should miss out through injuries.
Brian Priske’s men, on the other hand, restarted the domestic campaign with a routine 3-0 win over Karvina, but they will have a much bigger fish to fry against Galatasaray. Okan Buruk’s men have turned their Rams Park into a real fortress and we predict that the hosts will prove their worth on the field. The visitors will be without Haraslin, Pavelka, and Vindheim in Thursday’s clash.
Highlighted Player (Kaan Ayhan):
The Turkish-German defender, who can also play as a defensive midfielder, started playing football in his hometown, Gelsenkirchen, for the Schalke 04 youth academy when he was only four years old, in 1999. He signed his first professional contract in January 2018, but had to wait for his debut for almost two years.
Ayhan substituted Adam Szalai in the 4-1 win against Augsburg, on 5th October 2013. His first goal for Die Königsblauen came on May 2014, in a 2-0 win against SC Freiburg. However, the 23-year-old had to look for regular game time elsewhere, so he joined Eintracht Frankfurt on a loan deal. Despite the fact that there was an option of a permanent signing of the Turkish player, Eintracht decided not to use it, since the price was too demanding.
After 17 years at Schalke, Kaan Ayhan joined Fortuna Dusseldorf on August 2016. Even though he played both for Turkey and Germany junior national teams, the center-back decided to pledge his allegiance to Turkey, recording his debut for the Turkish senior team on August 2016, under the famous Fatih Terim.
Highlighted Team (Sparta Prague):
Established in 1893, Sparta Prague is one of Europe’s oldest clubs and the most successful side in Czech Republic, having won no fewer than 36 league titles and 27 Czech Cup trophies. The club play their games at the Generali Arena in Prague and hold a long-lasting rivalry with Slavia Prague.
Sparta Prague enjoyed their Golden Years in the 1960’s, when average attendance was nearly 40,000 and players like Jiri Tichy, Andrej Kvasnak and Vaclav Masek entertained the crowds week in week out. Rudi largely impressed in the maiden Champions League campaign during the 1991/92 season as they finished second in the semi-final group, meaning they were among top 4 European sides at the moment.
Nevertheless, Sparta Prague have enjoyed little to no success on the European stage since, reaching the Champions League knockout stages on just one occasion, with their latest major coup the return of prodigal son Tomas Rosicky from Arsenal.