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Sparta ready for Napoli celebration

Vítězslav Lavička believes AC Sparta Praha will show SSC Napoli "we've progressed significantly" after losing in Italy, with Rafael Benítez's side "here to win".

Rafael Benítez speaks to the Napoli squad in Prague
Rafael Benítez speaks to the Napoli squad in Prague ©Martin Sekanina

Vítězslav Lavička is backing AC Sparta Praha to show SSC Napoli how far they have come when the teams meet in the penultimate round of matches in UEFA Europa League Group I.

Sparta have won ten of their last 11 matches in all competitions – and 12 of their 13 home matches this season – leaving Lavička hopeful of more of the same. "Every home fixture is a holiday for us and our fans," he explained. "We're glad we've been able to produce good football for our fans in those games. We feel the support and positive atmosphere they've created in the Europa League.

"Our players' motivation on European nights in even higher," added Lavička, who is without David Bičík (heel), Lukáš Vácha (knee), Martin Nešpor, Tiémoko Konaté (both muscle), Roman Bednář (muscle) and Michal Breznaník through injury. "This is another big match against powerful opponents and we want it to be a celebration of football, not only for us but also for our supporters. Our players will be at the maximum of their abilities and we will be equal opponents, at worst. I feel tremendous determination from our dressing room."

Napoli are also in form, having lost one of their last 12, and boss Rafael Benítez has set his team simple targets at the Stadion Letná. "Our motivation is clear: we want to win. We are fully aware of our strengths and we want to qualify. We know we're not going to play against an easy opponent, but we're fully prepared for the challenge. We want to prove we are still a very strong team, especially mentally."

While Sparta singled out Marek Hamšík as the Napoli dangerman, Benítez knows his side must be wary of David Lafata, who has five goals already in Group I. "We know very well that Sparta have a prolific scorer but we have been preparing to defend not just one player but the whole team. We know Sparta base their play on Lafata and direct their attacks towards him, which makes him their key player.

"Sparta demand respect, especially at home. Their performances are also based on very good coaching and it's great to be here and face such a team, who are successful at European level and have such a great history."

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