Real Madrid 3 - Sparta Prague 0
Casillas; Geremi, Pavón, Iván Helguera (Morientes 76'),
Raúl Bravo; McManaman (Savio 53'), Flavio Conceiçao, Celades,
Solari (Miñambres 63'); Guti, Munitis. 4-4-2.
Group C league table:
Real Madrid lined up with nine changes from their first choice squad, but they still managed a comfortable win against a weak Sparta Prague. With his side already qualified for the quarter finals and almost certainly sure of being group champions, Del Bosque rested all his key players for Saturday's vital match at Barcelona. Only Pavón and Helguera (and possibly Solari) started the game of the eleven expected to play in the Nou Camp, with Geremi making his first start in several months and B team youngster Raúl Bravo replacing Roberto Carlos at left back. The first half was fairly dull, with neither side causing much trouble for the opposing keeper. Madrid went close on several occasions, the best being a Geremi header just wide of the post, but Prague could have taken the lead against the run of play when Casillas saved twice from Sionko just before half time.
However the introduction of Savio for the limping McManaman shortly after the break proved the turning point of the match. The Brazilian forward had been out for five months with an injury, but he proved he was back to full fitness by putting through a return pass for Solari to open the scoring only minutes after coming on. Del Bosque then brought on Miñambres, and with his first touch he laid the ball across for Guti to beat Ceh with a shot from the edge of the area. And then Savio added a third goal heading back Raúl Bravo's long cross in from the right. Novotny hit the bar as Madrid relaxed, with their minds more on next Saturday's game than on this match, but they had done enough to give them their fifth win out of five games and assure them of top spot in their group. Del Bosque can give his reserves another run out at Panathinaikos next week, a game which Helguera and Munitis will miss after both conveniently picked up their third yellow cards in the competition.