Sparta's 12-game UEFA Europa League unbeaten run is over, but they have cause for hope as they go into their home decider against Villarreal just one goal down.
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AC Sparta Praha are 2-1 down going into their UEFA Europa League quarter-final decider against Villarreal CF, but can feel positive after avoiding a mauling in Spain.
• In what was the sides' first meeting, Villarreal threatened to overwhelm Sparta, but had only two Cédric Bakambu efforts to show for their dominance, while Jakub Brabec headed a precious away goal for Sparta (the first goal Villarreal had conceded at home in this season's competition).
• Sparta's 18 UEFA fixtures against Spanish opposition have ended W5 D2 L11 (W4 D0 L5 at home – W1 D2 L6 in Spain).
• Villarreal are unbeaten in six encounters with Czech teams: W4 D2 L0 (W3 D0 L0 at home – W1 D2 L0 in the Czech Republic). Villarreal played Sparta's domestic title rivals FC Viktoria Plzeň in this term's group stage, winning 1-0 at home and drawing 3-3 away.
• Sparta remain unbeaten in six UEFA Europa League home games this campaign (W4 D2), during which they have let in just three goals. Encouragingly, they have scored at least once in all 15 European matches this season.
• Villarreal are now unbeaten in ten UEFA Europa League fixtures (W7 D3), having drawn their last three on the road. Only Borussia Dortmund have won as many games since the start of the group stage.
• Sparta last reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 1983/84 – their best showing in this tournament. Current coach Zdeněk Ščasný played in both legs, Sparta ultimately losing to HNK Hajduk Split after extra time.
• Villarreal's best previous campaigns in the competition ended in the semi-finals, where they were twice eliminated by eventual winners – Valencia CF in 2003/04 and FC Porto in 2010/11.
Links and trivia
• The journey from Villarreal to Prague is around 1,600km.
• Villarreal's Samuel Castillejo remains the most fouled player in the 2015/16 competition, with 32 infringements against him from the group stage onwards.
• Sparta's Bořek Dočkal has provided five assists this term – more than any other player in the competition.
• Sparta's German right-back Markus Steinhöfer has experience of Spanish football, having represented Real Betis Balompié in 2013/14.
• Villarreal's Bakambu has moved level with Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on seven goals for the season, those two players joint second in the UEFA Europa League scoring charts behind Athletic Club's nine-goal Aritz Aduriz.
• Villarreal are now the highest-scoring club in the history of the UEFA Europa League with 78 goals.
• Just four of the players involved in the quarter-finals have played in all 990 minutes of their teams' campaigns: Villarreal's Víctor Ruiz, Athletic's Iago Herrerín, Liverpool FC keeper Simon Mignolet and Sparta's Costa. However, Costa – and team-mate Brabec – will sit out the second leg against Villarreal through suspension.
• Sparta are the first Czech side to have contested the quarter-finals of a major UEFA men's club tournament since FC Slovan Liberec crashed 4-0 on aggregate to Dortmund in the last eight of the 2001/02 UEFA Cup. The last Czech team to make a UEFA semi-final was SK Slavia Praha, who succumbed to FC Girondins de Bordeaux in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup. No Czech club has played in a major European final.
• Sparta have been penalised for 195 fouls from matchday one onwards – 40 more than any other side still in contention. They have also received the most yellow cards (29) after ten matchdays.
• Sparta defender Ondřej Mazuch was part of the FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk squad that graced the UEFA Europa League final last term, though he did not feature in the 3-2 final reverse to Sevilla FC.
• Experienced trainer Ščasný, 58, took over at Sparta last April. Once a defender-cum-midfielder, he claimed Czechoslovakian titles with FK Dukla Praha and Sparta. As a coach, he steered Sparta to two championships in the 1990s and has also managed in Greece and Hungary.
• Marcelino's career as a midfielder was curtailed early by injury. As a coach, the 50-year-old worked his way up the Spanish leagues, culminating in spells with Real Zaragoza, Real Racing Club Santander and Sevilla. He took over at Villarreal in 2013, guiding them to promotion in his first campaign.
• Sparta's record in two UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L1:
L 3-1 H v FC Dynamo Kyiv (1998/99 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round)
W 4-3 A v Odense BK (2007/08 UEFA Cup first round)
• Villarreal won their only previous UEFA penalty shoot-out:
W 3-1 A v Club Atlético de Madrid (2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup finals)