By Chris Harris
Arsenal are making a good fist of life without their former captain, but it's hard to ignore the spectre of Thierry Henry when Arsenal play in Prague. After all, their last trip to the Czech capital ended with Henry eclipsing Ian Wright's goalscoring record for Arsenal.
That was two years ago and much has changed since then. Henry now plays for Barcelona while Sparta Prague are playing much better. In 2005 they drew a blank and shipped five goals to Arsenal in two Champions League games. The reigning Czech champions are a different proposition now.
We spoke to Karel Haring of Deniksport as Sparta prepare for their latest encounter with Arsenal. Read on to find out why Sparta have improved, how the Czechs are likely to approach Wednesday's game and why Tomas Rosicky can expect a warm welcome.
Karel, how do the current Sparta side compare to the 2005 team?
It is not easy to compare the two teams but when I check the line-up of Sparta Prague two years ago I think the current team is better. They have better individuals now like Tomas Repka in defence, Marek Kulic in attack and Pavel Horváth in midfield.
Tell us more about Sparta's key players.
Tomas Repka is a very experienced defender. He is the leader of the defence and also a leader in the dressing room.
The same can be said of Horváth. He is a creative offensive midfielder and Sparta don't have anyone else like him in the centre of midfield. If Horváth is missing it is a big loss for Sparta, they showed in their last league game against Viktoria Plzen that if he doesn't play, Sparta don't create many chances. They only got a 0-0 draw because of that.
Another key player is Marek Kulic. He arrived in January from Mladá Boleslav and was a big factor behind Sparta winning the title in the Spring.
How do you expect Sparta to approach the game tactically?
Sparta have a big respect for Arsenal so I'm sure their game will be based on careful defence. They will try to hit Arsenal with fast counter-attacks. If they attack too much they will leave gaps in defence and they know that counter-attacks are a very strong part of Arsenal's game. If Sparta play too offensively they will be punished very quickly.
How will the fans react to Tomas Rosicky on his return 'home'?
I think he has a very, very strong relationship with Sparta. He made a big, big impression and when he left for Borussia Dortmund his transfer brought big money to the club. Sparta were in debt at the time and this money helped very much. Rosicky is still very popular among the Sparta Prague fans and I think he can expect a really warm welcome.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 14 Aug 2007