UEFA Europa League - 2020/21 SeasonMatch press kits
|AC Milan||Stadio San Siro - MilanThursday 29 October 2020|
18.55CET (18.55 local time) Group H - Matchday 2
|AC Sparta Praha|
AC Milan's attempt to win the only major European trophy missing from their roll of honour continues with a home fixture against Czech Cup winners Sparta Praha.
• Milan beat Celtic 3-1 in Glasgow on Matchday 1, first European goals from Rade Krunić and Brahim Díaz preceding a late third from newly signed Norwegian striker Jens Petter Hauge, who played against the Rossoneri for Bodø/Glimt in the qualifying phase.
• Sparta, however, had an opening night to forget as they were reduced to ten men midway through the first half at home to LOSC Lille and went on to lose 4-1, skipper Bořek Dočkal's 46th-minute equaliser providing only temporary relief.
• Milan are unbeaten in six matches against Sparta (W4 D2), most recently in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League round of 16 when, as holders, they followed a goalless draw in Prague with a 4-1 victory in northern Italy.
• The Rossoneri have not faced Czech opposition since the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League group stage, when they took four points off Viktoria Plzeň, making it five home wins out of five against Czech clubs with a 2-0 win at San Siro before conceding two late goals to draw the return fixture 2-2.
• Sparta have played 26 UEFA matches against Italian clubs, winning just five (D10 L11), the only victory in Italy coming in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League round of 16 when they beat Lazio 3-0 in Rome to reach the quarter-final for the first time in 23 years following a 1-1 draw in Prague. Sparta's last visit to Italy brought a 2-1 defeat by Inter on Matchday 6 of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League, but it had no bearing as the Czech side had already gone through at their hosts' expense thanks in part to a 3-1 home win against the Nerazzurri on Matchday 2.
• A sixth-placed finish in Serie A last term earned Milan a return to Europe after a one-season absence. Stefano Pioli's side beat Shamrock Rovers (2-0 a) and runaway Norwegian league leaders Bodø/Glimt (3-2 h) in their first two qualifying matches before dramatically capturing a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage by ousting Rio Ave 9-8 in a marathon penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 draw in Portugal.
• This is the seven-time European champions' third appearance in the UEFA Europa League group stage, all in the last four seasons. They topped their group in 2017/18 before advancing into the round of 16, where they were convincingly defeated by Arsenal (0-2 h, 1-3 a), but in 2018/19 they could only finish third in their section, eliminated by Olympiacos and Real Betis. It was the first time the Rossoneri had failed to qualify from their group in a UEFA competition since the second group stage of the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League, ending a sequence of 14 straight successes.
• Milan's home record in the UEFA Europa League, qualifiers included, is W8 D1 L2. In the group stage it is W4 D1 L1, with the four wins all coming on Matchdays 2 and 5.
• Sparta won the 2019/20 Czech Cup, beating Slovan Liberec 2-1 in the final, to qualify for the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they are appearing for the seventh time, the first under new coach Václav Kotal. They have made it through to the knockout phase in four of their previous six participations, reaching the quarter-finals in 2015/16.
• This is the club's 38th successive European campaign but their first in a group stage since 2016/17, when they finished top of a UEFA Europa League section containing Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Southampton and Inter before going out in the round of 32 to Rostov (0-4 a, 1-1 h). Since then Sparta have been eliminated on entry in the UEFA Europa League qualifying phase three summers running, going out last season to Trabzonspor in the second qualifying round (2-2 h, 1-2 a).
• Sparta have lost all of their last five European away fixtures and have just one victory in their last ten (D1 L8). Their away record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W5 D5 L8.
Links and trivia
• Dávid Hancko is on loan to Sparta from Fiorentina. Three of his team-mates have also played for Italian clubs – Libor Kozák (Lazio 2009–13, Brescia 2009/10 loan, Bari 2017/18, Livorno 2018/19), Ondřej Čelůstka (Palermo 2010) and Ladislav Krejčí I (Bologna 2016–20).
• Kozák was the UEFA Europa League's top scorer, with eight goals for Lazio, in 2012/13.
• Ciprian Tătăruşanu (Milan) and Florin Niță (Sparta) are both Romanian international goalkeepers.
• Milan defenders Simon Kjær and Mateo Musacchio have both made 49 appearances in UEFA club competition.
• Milan are one of six former European Cup winners in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage, the others being Benfica (Group D), PSV Eindhoven (E), Feyenoord (K) Crvena zvezda (L) and Group H rivals Celtic.
• Sparta's seventh appearance in the UEFA Europa League group stage is the most made by a Czech club.