Europa League: Sparta Prague v Chelsea match preview
A look ahead to tonight’s Europa League fixture at the
Chelsea captain John Terry is fit to face Sparta Prague in the last 32, despite missing the 4-1 win over Wigan at the weekend. The European champions play their first ever Europa League game - the last time they featured in this competition in 2002/03 it was labelled the UEFA Cup - after they became the first ever defending champions to be dumped out of the Champions League at the group stages.
The Blues will be without David Luiz and Demba Ba, who are suspended and cup-tied respectively, while Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel have been left out due to their participation in the African Cup of Nations. However, there is good news as both Gary Cahill and Petr Cech are fit to feature, the latter making 38 appearances for Sparta Prague in 2001/02.
The Czech club have not played since early December due to the winter break, and while they will be rested and fresh for the tie, they may be lacking in match-fitness for such a crucial game. The two sides met in the Champions League group stages 10 years ago, with Chelsea claiming a 1-0 victory in Prague before playing out a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea 0 Sparta Prague 0, Champions League, November 2003.
Sparta Prague 0 Chelsea 1 (Gallas), Champions League, September 2003.
Chelsea have never lost to an opponent from the Czech Republic – winning twice and being held to two draws.
Sparta Prague are unbeaten in 11 European home games since they were beaten 2-0 in 2010 by MSK Zilina.
Although Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League, they were the highest scorers in the group stages with 16 goals.
Sparta midfielder Jiří Jarošík played for Chelsea for the second half of the 2004/05 season, winning the League Cup and the title with the club.
Rafael Benítez's most recent uropa League experience came in 2009/10, when he led Liverpool to the semi-finals, where they lost out to eventual winners AtlEtico Madrid.
Sparta Prague to win: 5.6
Chelsea to win: 1.79
TV: Live on ESPN at 6pm.
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