One of the world’s top football icons and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time, Lionel Messi will play in the Czech Republic for the just the second time in his career, and for the first time against a Prague team, tomorrow night as FC Barcelona visits Slavia Praha for a Champions League match.
The 32-year-old Messi has played his entire career for FC Barcelona, where he has racked up a record six Best FIFA Men’s Player and a record six European Golden Shoes, awarded to the top goalscorer in each European league.
Also a member of Argentina’s national football team, Messi led his home country to the World Cup final in 2014, ultimately losing to Germany.
But Messi has never before played a game against Prague’s top teams, largely due to their absence from Champions League group play over the past decade. Sparta Praha has not appeared in the Champions League group stage since 2006, while Slavia Praha’s last appearance was in the 2007-8 season.
That changed this season, however, with Slavia Praha making their first appearance in the group stage in more than a decade. But they don’t have an easy path ahead of them: in one of the most difficult groups in this year’s Champions League, Slavia Praha are 250-1 underdogs to finish ahead of Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Borussia Dortmund.
Still, Prague fans will get the chance to see one of the world’s top players tomorrow night, October 23, as Messi and Barcelona take on Slavia Praha at Prague’s Sinobo Stadium. While the odds are stacked against Slavia, the Stadium was been the site of one recent upset, as the Czech national team shocked England two weeks ago.
Messi has played in Prague only once before, during a 2011 Champions League game against FC Viktoria Plzeň at Sinobo Stadium, then known as Synot Tip Aréna. That game set an attendance record for the Plzeň team.
In that 2011 game, Messi memorably scored a hat trick with three goals against his Czech opponents as Barcelona won 4-0.
While this year marks the first time FC Barcelona has competed against Slavia Praha in the Champions League, Sparta Praha has faced off against Barcelona in three previous Champions League seasons. The record between the teams stands at 3-3, though Barcelona took the previous two games from Sparta Praha in the 1999-2000 season.