Žovinec says Sparta can upset odds

Dušan Žovinec is optimistic AC Sparta Praha can bridge the "big difference" between his side and Linköpings IF as they attempt to overturn a 2-0 deficit, despite having four injured goalkeepers.

Sparta line up before their 2-0 first-leg loss in Sweden
Sparta line up before their 2-0 first-leg loss in Sweden ©astromssportfoto.se/Erik Åström

AC Sparta Praha's female team have a level of dominance in the Czech Republic that even their men's team would envy but know they are underdogs as they attempt to overturn a 2-0 deficit to Linköpings IF.

The UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 first-leg loss in Sweden last week at least kept Sparta in with a chance of reaching their first European quarter-final since 2005/06. Sparta hit the bar in a solid performance and are in a far better position than this time last year, when a home 3-0 first-leg loss to Arsenal LFC pretty much ended their chances ahead of a 2-0 reverse in England.

"We kept up with a much more experienced side, particularly in the first half, but we failed to convert our chances," said Sparta coach Dušan Žovinec, whose team conceded goals from Charlotte Rohlin and Jessica Samuelson. "I hope it will be better in the return, although there is a big difference between our sides."

Žovinec could be boosted by the return of Czech international forward Kateřina Došková, who was unable to travel last week due to work commitments, but he has a goalkeeping crisis on their hands. Already without three keepers due to injury, Hana Sloupová was hurt late in the first leg, meaning forward Iva Mocová had to go in goal. Sparta are hoping to be allowed to field 14-year-old Bára Majerová.

Linköpings, yet to concede in this season's European campaign, have no such worries. "They have a great defence and some players with experience from the professional league in the United States," said Žovinec, whose side have only missed two of the ten seasons of European women's club competition. "But we also proved our ability and the return could be interesting."