Chelsea make a trip to the Generali Arena to face Czech club Sparta Prague in the first leg of the first knock-out round in the UEFA Europa League. The Blues made history for all the wrong reasons earlier this year, when they became the first Champions League holders to eliminated from the competition in the group stages.

Fernando Torres

Where to Watch Live

Kick-off is set for 6pm GMT. Live coverage will be available on ESPN UK and ESPN UK HD.


Sparta qualified for the knock-out rounds after finishing second in Group I. The Czechs saw off competition from Israeli club Hapoel Kiryat Shmona and last season's finalists, Athletic Bilbao of Spain, to finish behind French club Olympique Lyon. Sparta enjoyed a stellar home record in the group stages, beating both Shmona and Bilbao 3-1 and held Lyon to a 1-1 draw in a very even match. Overall, Sparta only lost once in the group stages and that will give the hosts for this match a definite boost.

The one point of concern for Thursday's hosts will be their defensive capabilities. Sparta have conceded six goals in as many group stage games; only Serie A sides Inter Milan (9) and Napoli (12) have given away more goals. And considering Chelsea scored 16 goals in the group stages of the Champions League, Sparta should be a little concerned. What will please them though, is the fact 10 of those 16 goals were scored in the two games against minnows FC Nordsjaelland and only six in the four matches against Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Domestically, Sparta are in good shape in the Gambrinus Liga (the Czech Republic's top flight). They are third and only three points off leaders Viktoria Pfizen.

Chelsea travel to Prague on the back of a morale-boosting 4-1 Premier League win on Saturday. Goals from Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard, Ramires and Marko Marin were more than enough to see off Wigan Athletic and interim boss Rafael Benitez will be desperate to see the west London club carry that form to this game, particularly since winning the Europa League will be an excellent advertisement for a long-term contract at the club.

The Blues finished third in their Champions League group after defeats at Donetsk and Juventus cost them their maiden European crown. And like Sparta, the fact they conceded 10 goals in their six games (only BATE Borisov (15) and Ajax (16) conceded more) will worry Benitez. In addition, Chelsea's away record in the Champions League was poor, with two defeats from three games.

Expect goals in this game.

In the Premier League, the Stamford Bridge club have little realistic chance of claiming a championship; they are 16 points of leaders Manchester United and should be more concerned any two of Tottenham, Everton or Arsenal could steal their Champions League place for next season.

Rafael Benitez

Team Guide

Sparta Prague

  • Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L D D D
  • Last Result: Sparta Praha 3 - 1 Concordia Chiajna


  • Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L D D D
  • Last Result: Chelsea 4 - 1 Wigan Athletic

Team News

Tomas Vaclik

Sparta have no injury worries going into this game. Exciting young Czech international Vaclav Kadlec is likely to play, along with January signing and veteran international David Lafata. David Krefci is another potent goal-scoring threat Chelsea will have to stifle. Defensive duties will likely be spearheded by Tomas Zapotocny, whose spell with Italian side Udinese and Turkish club Besiktas will be necessary to stop the visitors from scoring an away goal.

Probable Line-Up: Vaclik; Vidlicka, Svejdik, Zapotocny, Pamic; Husbauer, Vacek, Matejovsky, Krejci; Kadlec, Lafata

Benitez will have to do without Senegalese Demba Ba; the striker has already played for Newcastle United in this year's competition and is cup-tied. This means ex-Liverpool man Fernando Torres will be up front. Brazilian David Luiz is suspended but captain John Terry has travelled with the squad. Ex-Barcelona midfielder Oriel Romeu remains a long-term absentee.

Probable Line-Up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Bertrand; Ramires, Mikel; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres