Former Czech Republic and Sparta Prague manager Frantisek Straka has ridiculed his former club ahead of tomorrow night’s crunch Europa League tie against Celtic.

Prague dished out Celtic’s biggest home Euro embarrassment in years when they dismantled the Hoops 4-1 at Parkhead several weeks ago. It looked like a tactical masterclass from Sparta boss Vaclav Kotal, but fast forward several weeks and they’re at crisis point.

Sparta have lost their last two league games by two goals and have shipped a total of seven goals across both of them. Despite being plagued by injuries, Kotal could even be in a fight for his job ahead of tomorrow’s game, according to Sparta great Jiri Novotny (Scottish Sun).

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And Straka, who’s managed an incredible 19 clubs in his career to date, has laughed off their chances of beating Celtic on their own patch this time around.

As quoted by the Daily Record, Straka said: “It’s hard to understand why Sparta have been such a disgrace. They play without passion, emotion and fight. The players have shown nothing.

“They started the season well actually, but after a few injuries they have completely fallen apart. I don’t understand why they have so many injuries either. Sparta are in a fight for third place in the league with the biggest budget in the league. That’s not supposed to happen – they should be fighting for the title.

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“In the first game against Celtic, the way the Scots played suited Sparta. But there’s no way Celtic will play the same way now. I don’t think Sparta have a chance against them.”

 

Heard it all before

You could be forgiven as a Celtic fan for rolling your eyes at comments such as these. After all, how many times have we heard this in the past? This idea that teams we face are supposed to be in crisis only for them to come out and give us a right doing. It feels like it happens every two to three European matches.

This could be psychological from Straka of course. He’s certainly been in the game long enough to know how to play the mind games. He’ll be looking to spark a reaction from the Sparta players in a bid to keep their Europa League hopes alive.

There’s no way Sparta have no chance tomorrow. If it isn’t psychological, then it’s clear that Straka hasn’t seen much of Celtic or isn’t aware of our own situation back home. Regardless, we have to block it out.

Neil Lennon after Celtic vs Hibernian

Neil Lennon after Celtic vs Hibernian / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It doesn’t make any sense for the players to start believing this kind of stuff. After all, Sparta have only actually lost two domestic games this season, and you can hardly have a chuckle at them for losing comfortably to Lille and AC Milan respectively in Europe. These things happen against teams of that quality.

The day we go to a European away-day complacent is the day we’ll get ripped apart. Lennon has actually managed to avoid that mentality since coming back to Celtic for his second spell. He’s managed impressive results away to the likes of AIK, Rennes, Lazio, Copenhagen, and Lille respectively. He’s also managed to come out on top in matches against Sarajevo (x2), Nomme Kalju, and Riga in games in which we were favourites despite being away from home.

We’re about to find out one way or another whether our performance back at Celtic Park was a freak night or not. This Celtic side has so much to prove to a fanbase that it continuously lets down in an almost reliable fashion. Things must change imminently, and a win in Prague would at least be a start.

In other news, Celtic are said to be “delighted” with the progress of one of their most impressive Lennoxtown youngsters.

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