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.
Latest in Sport
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Real Madrid striker fuels speculation he will join Gunners with cryptic Instagram post
Memphis Depay scores amazing overhead kick from Wayne Rooney cross during Manchester United pre-season training
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Spanish club resume £28m pursuit after fending Manchester United off Sergio Ramos
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Transfer news live - Angel Di Maria to leave Manchester United, Emmanuel Adebayor to Aston Villa
Manchester United forward Memphis Depay is not the strongest player in the squad as Luke Shaw and Ashely Young hail Tyler Blackett
- 1 Australia to impose 24-hour curfew on all cats to protect endangered species
- 2 The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath
- 3 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 4 Walter Palmer: Cecil the lion killer revealed to be American dentist
- 5 What TripAdvisor users think of 16 of the world's most popular landmarks
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Labour leadership contest: I would never quit the party, says Liz Kendall