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Sparta Prague vs Chelsea Preview, Team News, Likley Line-ups & Predicted Score
Chelsea take on Sparta Prague in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday evening (kick off 6pm GMT).
The Blues became the first holders of the Champions League trophy to crash out at the group stages having narrowly missed out on qualification from Group E, finishing third behind Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The west Londoners must now focus on the Europa League and have a tricky tie with Czech outfit Sparta Prague at the Generali Arena this evening, with the hosts currently unbeaten in their last five European games.
However, Sparta may be rusty having not played a competitive game since early December due to the Czech winter break, but they have played several friendly matches to try and maintain their match sharpness.
Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez will be without the services of Demba Ba with the striker cup-tied having already played in the Europa League with Newcastle this season, so Fernando Torres will start up front.
Captain John Terry is fit after missing Saturday’s win over Wigan but may be rested to protect his troublesome knee injury. Long-term injury victim Oriol Romeu is the only player currently on the sidelines through injury.
Defender David Luiz is suspended for the game so Branislav Ivanovic is likely to partner Gary Cahill at the back. Nigerian duo Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are likely to miss out having won the Africa Cup of Nations last Sunday.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech is expected to continue in goal despite a broken finger and will face his former side, while Benitez may opt to rest Juan Mata and Ashley Cole.
Sparta will name a strong side for the game with the main threat coming from lively wingers Vaclav Kadlec and David Krefci. They will however be without midfielders Jiri Jarosik and Pavel Kaderabek, and forward Tomas Prikryl.
Despite Sparta’s impressive recent record in Europe, Chelsea should have too much for the Czech outfit this evening. We can see Chelsea edging this game and taking a vital advantage back to Stamford Bridge for the second leg. Sparta 1-2 Chelsea
What would your starting eleven be and what’s your score prediction for the game? Get involved in the comments section below.