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Champions League | Second Qualifying Round | 1st Leg
Jul 20, 2021 at 7.30pm UK
Allianz Stadion
Rapid Vienna
2 - 1
Sparta Prague
Knasmullner (63', 71')
Ullmann (23'), Wimmer (33'), Stojkovic (41'), Grahovac (86')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Krejci (3')
Stetina (17'), Hancko (60')

Preview: Rapid Vienna vs. Sparta Prague - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League clash between Rapid Vienna and Sparta Prague, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Two famous names of European football clash on Tuesday, as Rapid Vienna welcome Czech champions Sparta Prague to the Allianz Stadion.

This second Champions League qualifying round encounter sees the side that trailed in 15 points behind Austrian Bundesliga winners RB Salzburg last term hosting visitors who also finished runners-up, well adrift of unbeaten rivals Slavia Prague.


Match preview

Rapid Vienna's Maximilian Hofmann celebrates with teammates after scoring against Dundalk on November 5, 2020© Reuters

With at least 14,000 tickets already sold, Rapid Vienna will get their Champions League campaign underway this week, benefiting from the support of a partisan home crowd as European football continues to cautiously re-open its gates.

The Hutteldorfer may have been once more left trailing in the wake of RB Salzburg in the league last season, but a second-placed finish - ahead of Sturm Graz by the narrowest of margins - was enough to seal a place in the second qualifying round of Europe's elite competition.

In the build-up to this two-legged tie, Rapid recorded a comprehensive 6-0 victory over Wiener Viktoria in their first competitive game of the 2021-22 season last Friday. That win in the first round of the Austrian Cup was certainly aided by a Viktoria player being dismissed on the half-hour mark, but should nonetheless prove a useful workout ahead of Sparta's visit.

In all, the Austrian side have lost just one of their six friendly outings this summer, which included a draw with Lokomotiv Moscow and a win over FC Copenhagen.

Preparations, though, may have been disrupted by the long-expected departure of prodigiously talented forward Yusuf Demir to Barcelona last week. Predictably labelled 'the Austrian Messi', teenager Demir signed for the Catalan giants on a season-long loan with an option to make his stay permanent next summer.

Coach Dietmar Kuhbauer will therefore have a significant hole to fill in his creative department ahead of their two upcoming European ties and the opening day of the new Bundesliga season.

Sparta Prague's Lukas Julis celebrates scoring against Celtic in the Europa League on November 5, 2020© Reuters

Sparta Prague, meanwhile, are yet to take part in a competitive match this summer, with their last game of any significance being May's Czech Cup semi-final defeat to city rivals Slavia.

Their most recent outing in the pre-season period ended in a 2-2 friendly draw against Dynamo Moscow last Monday, which followed a 3-2 loss to Wolfsberger AC, who finished fifth in Austria last term.

Prior to that minor setback, Sparta had previously ended the 2020-21 league campaign on a high, with five straight victories, and gone on to win four out of four friendly matches upon their return.

Much of their late-season form, which saw them pip Jablonec to second spot on the podium, was due to the sparkling form of 18-year-old Adam Hlozek, who registered a remarkable 15 goals and eight assists from just 19 league games for the Letensti - enough to seal a place in the Czech squad at Euro 2020.

Described as an "exceptional striker" by Sparta boss Pavel Vrba, the much-admired youngster may soon follow the path of his Viennese counterpart Demir, by joining a big-name club in one of the continent's 'top five' leagues. For now, though, he is set to spearhead his team's ambitions of reaching the group phase for the first time since 2005.

Rapid Vienna form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • W

Sparta Prague form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D



Team News

Rapid Vienna manager Dietmar Kuhbauer pictured on November 5, 2020© Reuters

Home manager Didi Kuhbauer must manage without Barcelona-bound Yusuf Demir, so former Barnsley attacking midfielder Christoph Knasmullner may keep his place after scoring in Rapid's cup win last week.

Centre-back Kevin Wimmer - once of Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur - should feature in the home side's rearguard, with goalkeeper Richard Strebinger providing the last line of defence.

Winger Philipp Schobesberger will not be involved but is back in training again after 20 months out of action. Having not played a game at professional level for approaching two years, his comeback attempt after a cruciate ligament rupture failed in March, but the 27-year-old could feature if Rapid progress to the next round.

Sparta Prague's chief attacking threat Adam Hlozek finished as the Czech League top scorer last season, despite missing 15 games with injury, and should now have recovered from his international commitments at the Euros.

Meanwhile, veteran forward Libor Kozak and Ghanaian striker Benjamin Tetteh both left the club during the summer, but the retention of Slovakia defender David Hancko - now on a permanent deal - and new arrival Casper Hojer have strengthened head coach Pavel Vrba's options and both could start.

Rapid Vienna possible starting lineup:
Strebinger; Stojkovic, Wimmer, Hofmann, Ullmann; Schick, Grahovac, Petrovic, Knasmullner; Fountas, Kara

Sparta Prague possible starting lineup:
Nita; Wiesner, Celustka, Hancko, Hojer; Stetina; Dockal, Krejci, Pavelka, Hlozek; Julis


SM words green background

We say: Rapid Vienna 2-2 Sparta Prague

Considering their geographical proximity and pre-eminent status throughout much of the last century, it is surprising that these clubs have not met more often, with four of their six encounters taking place in the late 1920s.

On this occasion, the first leg could be an open affair, as both sides have scored frequently in pre-season and away goals are no longer a factor ahead of next week's return game.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data



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Data Analysis

Our analysis of all available data, including recent performances and player stats up until an hour before kickoff, suggested the most likely outcome of this match was a Rapid Vienna win with a probability of 54.47%. A win for Sparta Prague had a probability of 23.36% and a draw had a probability of 22.2%.

The most likely scoreline for a Rapid Vienna win was 2-1 with a probability of 9.79%. The next most likely scorelines for that outcome were 1-0 (8.58%) and 2-0 (8.24%). The likeliest Sparta Prague win was 1-2 (6.05%), while for a drawn scoreline it was 1-1 (10.18%). The actual scoreline of 2-1 was predicted with a 9.8% likelihood. Our data analysis correctly predicted a 2-1 win for Rapid Vienna in this match.


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Game History

How you voted: Rapid Vienna vs Sparta Prague

Rapid Vienna
41.2%
Draw
28.6%
Sparta Prague
30.3%
119
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Yusuf Demir in action for Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on December 3, 2020
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