Chelsea v Sparta Prague, Europa League: Where to Watch Live, Preview and Probable Teams
By IBTimes Staff Reporter | February 21, 2013 10:53 PM EST
Chelsea host Czech club Sparta Prague at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night, with a 1-0 first leg lead to defend. The two clubs face off in west London for the second leg of their UEFA Europa League knock-out tie and the hosts are favourites to qualify for the Round of 16.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 8.05pm GMT. Live coverage will be available on ESPN UK and ESPN UK HD.
Chelsea come into this game on the back of a 4-0 defeat of Brentford over the weekend; a replay of the FA Cup tie that finished 2-2 at Griffin Park earlier. The Blues' performance was dominant but an overly physical style of play led to severe criticism. Nevertheless, Frank Lampard, Oscar, Juan Mata and John Terry were all on the score sheet against the lower league side and that will give them and the other players a big boost ahead of this game.
Interim boss Rafael Benitez will be confident of the right result in west London, given the Blues have won four of the last seven home games, scoring 20 goals and conceding only seven in the process. And the ex-Liverpool boss will also be aware of the perils of an early exit from the Europa League; Chelsea already have the dubious distinction of being the first team, in the Champions League-era, to fail to defend the title beyond the group stages.
Domestically, hopes of winning the Premier League have long since evaporated. Manchester United are 16 points clear at the top. Defending league champions Manchester City are a realistic target - they lie second, four points ahead. But Chelsea will also be aware of Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton, all of whom are within ten points of a precious Champions League spot for next season.
The good news for Blues' fans is their club remains active in two cup competitions - the FA Cup (they face Middlesbrough, at the Riverside, in the fifth round) and, of course, the Europa League.
Meanwhile, Sparta were surprise qualifiers from Group I. The Czechs saw off competition from Israeli club Hapoel Kiryat Shmona and last season's finalists, Athletic Bilbao of Spain and qualified second from the group... behind French side Olympique Lyon.
Sparta lost only once in the group stages and given their form in Europe so far, will back themselves to get a positive result in the home of the European champions. Domestically, Sparta are third in the Czech league, with only three points between them and leaders Viktoria Pfizen.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W W L D
- Last March: Chelsea 4 - 0 Brentford
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L W L D D
- Last Match: Sparta Prague 0 - 1 Chelsea
The Blues have no additional injury concerns ahead of this tie and will field a strong squad to ensure progress. However, Senegal striker Demba Ba will not feature; the January signing from Newcastle has already featured in this year's competition. This means ex-Liverpool forward Fernando Torres will lead the line again, despite having scored only twice in the last 11 appearances.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Bertrand; Ramires, Lampard; Marin, Mata, Oscar; Torres
Sparta will have midfielder Jiri Jarosik available again and that could be a big boost. The 35-year-old former Czech international played for the Blues in the 2005/06 campaign and although he failed to impress the Stamford Bridge faithful, he will have an idea of what to expect in west London.
Probable Line-Up: Vaclik; Zapotocny, Hybs, Svejdik, Pamic; Vacha, Matejovsky, Jarosik, Husbauer, Krejci; Lafata
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