Arsenal’s bid to reach a second UEFA Europa League final in three seasons continues against a Slavia Praha side who have already eliminated two other British clubs on their way to the quarter-finals.
• Arsenal claimed maximum points in the autumn from UEFA Europa League Group B, doing the double over Rapid Wien, Dundalk and fellow qualifiers Molde while scoring 20 goals – the most ever by an English team in a UEFA Europa League group – before edging out Benfica in the round of 32 (1-1 a, 3-2 h) and Olympiacos in the round of 16 (3-1 a, 0-1 h).
• Slavia made up for a UEFA Champions League play-off defeat in their opening European tie of 2020/21 by convincingly coming through a UEFA Europa League section headed by Bayer Leverkusen before knocking out England’s Leicester City in the round of 32 (0-0 h, 2-0 a) and Scotland’s Rangers in the round of 16 (1-1 h, 2-0 a).
• The clubs’ only previous pairing in UEFA competition was in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League group stage, a 7-0 victory for Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal over Karel Jarolím’s Slavia in London – still the Gunners’ biggest European home win and the Czech club’s heaviest continental defeat – preceding a goalless draw at the Strahov Stadium in Prague.
• Arsenal have never lost to Czech opposition, winning seven of their eight previous encounters, the only exception that goalless draw against Slavia. Their other six games have all been against Slavia’s city rivals Sparta Praha, the only knockout tie having taken place in that same 2007/08 season when Arsenal were 5-0 aggregate victors in the third qualifying round (2-0 a, 3-0 h).
• Slavia’s victory at Leicester in the round of 32 – sealed by second-half goals from Lukáš Provod and Abdallah Sima – was just their second win in 13 UEFA matches against English opposition (D3 L8) and their first in England, having drawn one and lost four of the previous five. It was also their first success in five two-legged knockout ties against English sides, the most recent defeat having come against Arsenal’s city rivals Chelsea in their only previous UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie, in 2018/19, when Jindřich Trpišovský’s team were beaten both in Prague (0-1) and London (3-4), midfielder Petr Ševčík scoring a double in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
• Eighth in the 2019/20 Premier League, Arsenal ensured a 25th consecutive season in Europe by winning the FA Cup under new manager Mikel Arteta – the club’s record 14th triumph in the competition – with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the final. Their third successive UEFA Europa League campaign was ended in the round of 32 by Olympiacos.
• UEFA Champions League ever-presents for 19 seasons in a row from 1998/99 to 2016/17, Arsenal reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals at the first attempt in 2017/18, losing to eventual winners Atlético de Madrid, before going one step further and making it to the 2018/19 final, where they were defeated 4-1 by Chelsea in Baku. They have been group winners on all four UEFA Europa League appearances – an unprecedented feat – and this season became the 11th team in the competition to top their section with maximum points thanks to wins against Rapid (2-1 a, 4-1 h), Dundalk (3-0 h, 4-2 a) and Molde (4-1 h, 3-0 a).
• Arsenal have won both of their previous UEFA Europa League quarter-final ties, beating CSKA Moskva in 2017/18 (4-1 h, 2-2 a) and Napoli in 2018/19 (2-0 h, 1-0 a).
• The Gunners’ overall UEFA Europa League home record, including the win against Benfica in neutral Piraeus in the round of 32, is W16 D3 L4. They have, however, lost their last two knockout phase matches at the Arsenal Stadium – both to Olympiacos.
• Champions of the Czech Republic for the third time in four years last season, Slavia missed out on a second successive UEFA Champions League group stage adventure this term when, led again by coach Trpišovský, they were defeated by Midtjylland in the play-offs (0-0 h, 1-4 a).
• Fourth in their UEFA Champions League section last season, behind Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Internazionale, Slavia finished second in their UEFA Europa League group this term, a run of four successive wins from Matchday 2 to Matchday 5 enabling them to finish runners-up to Leverkusen – who closed the section by beating them 4-0 in Germany – ahead of Hapoel Beer-Sheva and Nice.
• Victory over Rangers – which featured spectacular goals in each leg from Romanian international Nicolae Stanciu – took the club into the last eight of the UEFA Europa League for the second time in three seasons. Slavia’s last two European quarter-finals have both resulted in defeats by English clubs – Chelsea two years ago and Leeds United in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup (0-3 a, 2-1 h) – but they did win their first, overcoming Roma on away goals after extra time in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup (2-0 h, 1-3 a).
• Those back-to-back successes at Leicester and Rangers are nevertheless only two of four wins for Slavia in their last 12 European away fixtures (D3 L5), though they did draw at both Inter (1-1) and Barcelona (0-0) in last season’s UEFA Champions League. Their overall record on the road in the UEFA Europa League proper is now W6 D4 L7.
Links and trivia
• Arsenal defender David Luiz was in the Chelsea starting XI that beat Slavia 4-3 at Stamford Bridge in the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg, with his fellow Brazilian Willian coming on as a second-half substitute. Willian had provided the assist for the winning goal in the first leg in Prague, where Luiz was an unused replacement.
• Slavia general manager Stanislav Vlček played for the club in the 7-0 defeat at Arsenal Stadium in October 2007.
• Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played 60 minutes in LOSC Lille’s 5-1 UEFA Europa League group stage win at Slavia on 1 October 2009.
• Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal) and Simon Deli (Slavia) are both current Ivory Coast internationals.
• Czech internationals Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal both joined Arsenal’s London rivals West Ham United from Slavia in 2020.
• Arsenal are the joint highest-scoring English club in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, with 103 goals – the same number as local rivals Tottenham Hotspur.