Chelsea will be confident of advancing to the Europa League last-16, as they bring a vital away-goal advantage into their second-leg with Sparta Prague.
A quick-fire goal for super-sub Oscar gave Rafael Benitez’ Chelsea side a 0-1 win in their first-leg tie with Sparta Prague last Thursday.
Chelsea look the most likely English side to go through to the last-16 of the Europa League and will be confident of seeing the job through on Thursday. They come into the game on a good run of form having won three games on the bounce, including a 4-0 demolition of lower-league side Brentford in the FA Cup.
Chelsea’s European form has been very disappointing, with the Londoners becoming the first ever Champions League holders to be knocked out of the competition at the group stage. The 0-1 win in Prague lacked a killer instinct and their overall performance was summed up by a Fernando Torres shot that went out for a throw-in. However, winning ugly is important and Chelsea go into Thursday’s Europa League game with a big advantage.
Sparta Prague have been training very hard over the last couple of weeks, as they gear up for the restart of the Czech league this weekend. They will be ready for Thursday’s game with Chelsea and will seek revenge, having been denied a deserved draw in the first-leg.
Frank Lampard has been rested for Thursday’s game ahead of the huge clash with Manchester City on Sunday, and will have to wait a little longer for his 200th Chelsea goal. Branislav Ivanovic has also been rested for the game, while Demba Ba is cup-tied having represented Newcastle in the competition earlier in the year.
Former Chelsea player Jiri Jarosik could return from a leg injury for Sparta in time to face his old club. Danger-man David Lafata is expected to start up front.
Players to Watch
Juan Mata has been Chelsea’s star performer this season and continues to notch up the goals and assists. Oscar came off the bench to score the winner in the first-leg and should have a big part to play on Thursday.
David Lafata poses the biggest threat to Chelsea’s hopes of progressing and they cannot afford to give him space. Jiri Jarosik will also be looking to impress on his return to Stamford Bridge.