Slavia will face Turkey’s Fenerbahçe Istanbul, in which the Czech National Team member Filip Novák plays, in the first round of the football 2021-22 UEFA Europa Conference League elimination phase.
Sparta, the second of the Prague clubs competing in the third-tier continental cup in the spring, will face Belgrade’s Partizan, the team from Serbia. That was decided by the draw that took place at UEFA’s headquarters in the Swiss city of Nyon.
The first leg matches will take place on February 17, followed by rematches a week later. Just as it was the case so far this season, top betting sites in the Czech Republic will cover this competition with appealing odds (that if betting is your thing).
Slavia, as the second-placed team in its respective group, will begin with an away match. Sparta, on the other hand, will play the opening match at home after qualifying for the Europa Conference League playoffs from third place in the UEFA Europa League group, the second-tier of continental cups.
The eight group winners who advanced to the Round of 16 in the Europa Conference League directly will join the advancing teams from the first round of the elimination phase, i.e. playoffs. On May 25, the newly created competition’s final will take place in Tirana, Albania.
Turkish Giants Stand In a Way of Slavia
The Slavia head coach Jindřich Trpišovský, who hoped to get exactly Fenerbahçe, is happy with the drawing of lots. Czech left-back from the Turkish side, Novák, looks forward to interesting fights with his compatriots. The 31-year-old player has been ‘employed’ in one of Turkey’s most famous clubs since last summer.
Fenerbahçe qualified for the Europa Conference League playoffs after finishing third in their Europa League group, ahead of Antwerp but behind Eintracht Frankfurt and Olympiacos. The Istanbul club is currently in fifth place in the Turkish league. It finished third in the domestic championship last season, while it last won the title in the 2013-14 season.
The last time Fenerbahçe played a Czech opponent was in the 2012-13 Europa League elimination round when they went past Plzeň after winning 1-0 away and drawing 1-1 at home. Turkish giants then advanced to the semi-finals, achieving their biggest result on the European stage.
Previously, Fenerbahçe defeated Sparta 1-0 in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2004, and they lost the UEFA Cup face-off to Olomouc in the 1992-93 season following a 1-0 win at home and a 1-7 defeat at the Andrův. In competitions under UEFA, Slavia faced a Turkish opponent only once, in 2003, when they fell to Beşiktaş.
Serbia’s Leaders Next Obstacle for Sparta
Partizan qualified to playoffs from their Europa Conference League group’s second place. Sparta has only faced them once, in the quarter-finals of the European Champion Cup, the precursor to today’s Champions League, in the 1965-66 season. Sparta won the first match 4-1 at home but dropped out of the competition after a 0-5 debacle on the road.
Since then, ‘Rudí’ have faced Serbian opponents in European cups four times, losing three of them. They lost in the third preliminary round of the Europa League to another Belgrade team, Crvena zvezda in 2017-18 and failed to qualify for the same competition a year later against Subotica.
“Partizan fight for the title every year in the domestic competition, they are currently leading the Serbian league with an excellent balance. In general, they concede relatively few goals and they are really good at scoring, especially on the home ground. We respect the strength of the opponent, but we want to advance to the next stage of the competition,” the Sparta head coach Pavel Vrba told the club website.
“It’s a very interesting draw, we got a prestigious Serbian club with a rich history. They have a great season in the domestic league, they have a lot of points, they are dominant. I perceive the chances evenly,” added the sports director of Sparta, Tomáš Rosický.
In the 2017-18 season, Partizan lost to Plzeň in the elimination phase of the Europa League after a home draw 1-1 and a 0-2 defeat away. The Belgrade team didn’t succeed against the Czech team even in the season 2002-03 when it was eliminated by Slavia after extra time.
Partizan have recently been overshadowed by the more successful city rival Crvena zvezda. The last time the first Serbian finalist of the Champions League (in 1966) won the home championship was in the 2016-17 season. They are still leading the table in the current season.
For the third time in four seasons, Slavia made it to the spring phase of the continental cups. Last season, the Czech champions advanced to the Europa League quarter-finals, while the team-best on the European scene was in 2019 when they reached the 1996 UEFA Cup semi-finals.
Nevertheless, Sparta will compete in the spring part of the cups in the continent for the first time since the 2016-17 season when they also reached the Europa League quarter-finals.
The draw of the first round of the 2021-22 UEFA Europa Conference League Playoffs (first matches on February 17, rematches on February 24):
- Fenerbahçe (TUR) vs Slavia (CZE)
- Midtjylland (DEN) vs PAOK (GRE)
- Rapid (AUT) vs Tottenham (ENG)/Vitesse (NED)
- Marseille (FRA) vs Qarabağ (AZE)
- PSV Eindhoven (NED) vs Maccabi Tel-Aviv (ISR)
- Leicester City (ENG) vs Randers (DEN)
- Celtic (SCO) vs Bodø-Glimt (NOR)
- Sparta (CZE) vs Partizan (SRB)