Sparta Prague - Chelsea Preview: Blues begin new European adventure
Rafael Benitez's side open their Europa League campaign in the Czech Republic against The Reds, who sit third in the Czech Premier League and lost just once in the group stage
By Chris Teale
Vidlicka, Svejdik, Zapotocny, Pamic
Kadlec, Husbauer, Vacha, Matejovsky, Krejci
Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Bertrand
Ramires, Mikel, Marin
Oscar, Torres, Moses
The home side should choose a fairly strong team for this game, with the exciting pair of Vaclav Kadlec and David Krefci both significant goal threats from the wing.
He will be supporting lone frontman David Lafata, who joined the club in January after a proflific spell with Jablonec 97 while former West Brom forward is likely to start on bench with other strikers Leonard Kweuke and Bekim Balaj.
In defence, the experienced Tomas Zapotocny will be crucial in the centre, hoping to use his considerable experience of European football to good effect for the home side.
For Chelsea, Demba Ba is cup-tied having played in this competition already for Newcastle, so it will fall to Fernando Torres to lead the line.
Blues manager Rafael Benitez may choose this competition to experiment with his side, allowing some of his fringe players time on the pitch.
John Terry remains out with a knee injury, while midfielder Oriel Romeu (knee) is another who is a long-term absentee.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Sparta Prague first began their Europa League campaign at the beginning of August, beating Admira of Austria 4-2 on aggregate in the third qualifying round.
- Czech midfielder Jiri Jarosik spent two seasons with Chelsea, making enough league appearances in the 2004-05 season to earn a Premier League winner’s medal but being loaned to Birmingham City after the arrival of Michael Essien.
- Sparta Prague have tasted success in European club competition before, winning the Mitropa Cup for central European teams three times before the tournament was discontinued in 1992.
- These teams last met in the Champions League group stage in the 2003-04 season, with the sides drawing 0-0 at Stamford Bridge after the Blues won 1-0 away in Prague thanks to a goal from William Gallas (pictured).
- Chelsea have not played in this competition since the 2002-03 season, when they lost 5-4 on aggregate in the first round to Norwegian side Viking FK.
- If the Blues were to win this competition, they would have then won each European club competition in their history.
- Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has won this competition once as a manager in the 2003-04 season when he was in charge of Valencia.
Top 3 Predictions
Sparta Praha 1-3 Chelsea FC
- 21.05 %
Sparta Praha 0-3 Chelsea FC
- 13.94 %
Sparta Praha 0-2 Chelsea FC
- 12.64 %
|Europa League (EL)||22-Feb-2013||Chelsea FC 1 - Sparta Praha 1|
|Europa League (EL)||14-Feb-2013||Sparta Praha 0 - Chelsea FC 1|
|22-Feb-2013||Chelsea FC 1 - Sparta Praha 1||EL|
|14-Feb-2013||Sparta Praha 0 - Chelsea FC 1||EL|
|07-Dec-2012||Athletic Bilbao 0 - Sparta Praha 0||EL|
|22-Nov-2012||Sparta Praha 1 - O. Lyon 1||EL|
|09-Nov-2012||Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1 - Sparta Praha 1||EL|
Times In IST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed