It is not a city that remembers the Ibrox Club well. During their older four visits to the European Club Competition, the Rangers lost three times and drew once because they were eliminated in all of these elimination matches.
Thursday’s meeting with Sparta Prague at the Letna stadium will be the first time that the Rangers will face their Czech opponent in the group stage fight. After losing 2-0 to Lyon in the opening match of Group A of the European League at home two weeks ago, there was pressure on the Scottish champions to score at least one point in Prague to increase their chances of getting to the first and second place and advancing to the elimination round. parts. phase. Championship stage.
Regardless of the clearly decisive 90-minute result, the biggest fear of the match is the remnants of the Rangers’ fight in their last 16 European League matches with Sparta’s biggest rivals Slavia Prague last season.
The horrific racist abuse of Rangers midfielder Glenn Kamara by Slavia defender Ondrej Kudila during the second stage in Ibrox, when UEFA forced the Czech national team to a maximum of 10 matches, forming an unwelcome but inevitable backdrop to this week’s match.
Racist attitudes continue to damage the football reputation of many Eastern European nations, as evidenced again this month by Hungarian fans targeting England players during the World Cup qualifiers in Budapest.
Sadly, over the years, Sparta Prague has had one of the longest-running and most frustrating cards for similar fan behavior.
In 1995, the attack on AC Milan by George Weah – now President of Liberia – was subjected to racist abuse during a UEFA Cup match at the Letna Stadium. Six years later, Sparta was paid a record fine of € 35,000 after Brazilian attack on Spartacus Moscow Robson da Silva received racist chants.
In 2005, Sparta was ordered to close part of Letenská in the Champions League match against Arsenal due to racist chanting during their previous domestic match in the competition against Ajax.
Despite the club’s best efforts, Sparta remains an insurmountable problem that has brought up its ugly head again this season.
In July, the Czech Football Association punished and fined them for the racist behavior of their fans towards the French defender Sigma Olomouc, Florent Polol.
A month later, Sparta was again dishonored on the European scene when, during the first round of the third round of the Champions League qualification at Letná, monkey chants were directed at Monaco midfielder Aurelien Chuamini.
The match was stopped for three minutes as Chwamini and his friends provoked racist behavior, which was repeated after a full-time whistle.
Sparta identified some of those responsible for the abuse and banned them indefinitely. UEFA lifted disciplinary measures against Sparta and originally ordered the closure of the entire stadium for the upcoming European match at Letná – a visit to the Rangers this week.
Spectators will now be present, as UEFA has agreed to Sparta’s proposal to admit organized groups of children aged 6-14 to the game for free.
With a milder atmosphere in the country, the Rangers can concentrate on finding the first victory in Prague.
Their first trip to the city took place in 1981 under the leadership of John Gregg and saw them humiliated 3: 0 by Dukla Prague in the first round of the first round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, which they help save in Ibrox, as they won 2.
Ten years later, when Walter Smith was in charge, they had their only previous meeting with Sparta in the first round of the European Cup. The Rangers lost 1-0 at the Leten Stadium and were eliminated from the outdoor goal tournament after winning 2-1 on the other leg.
A similar fate befell Alex McLeish’s team in 2002, when the Rangers returned to Prague to face the little-known Victoria Zizkov in the first round of the UEFA Cup. A 2-0 defeat was considered a humiliation from which McLeish’s men could not recover, as their 3-0 win over Ibrox meant another departure from the goal.
The series of losses in Prague was finally stopped last season, when the Rangers held a well-deserved draw 1: 1 against Slavia in the first match of the 16th round of the European League. But everything went wrong in more ways than for Steven Gerrard and his players, when in the second stage of Ibrox, which was marked by racist abuse of the Camara, they lost 2-0 to their superior Slavia.
Sparta, which finished 12 points behind Slavia in the Czech league last year in Slavia, did not lose in matches with the Scottish rival in Europe. In addition to their success in the 1991/92 European Cup against the Rangers, they defeated Airdrie in the Cup Winners’ Cup the following season and then eliminated the Hearts from the 2006 UEFA Cup.
Last season, of course, Sparta completed a total double over Celtic in the group stages of the European League, beating both Parkhead and Letna 4: 1.
Like the Rangers, they had a mixed start to the season, but on the weekend they did not find any shoes, when on Saturday they won 5: 2 over the humble Fastav Zlín.
After falling from Group A in the first round with a goalless draw with Brondby, Sparta has the motivation to open a four-point lead over the Rangers on Thursday.
At night, when the action on the field does not just come under scrutiny, this is a scenario that the boys from Ibrox would like to avoid.