Chelsea travels to the Czech Republic to face Sparta Prague in UEFA's Europa League round of 32 as the London squad looks to move on from their disappointing exit from the Champions League.
- (Photo: Reuters/Darren Staples)
For Chelsea manager Rafa Benitiz, anything less than the tournament title would be seen as a major disappointment, given that the Blues were the first champions of Europe to exit the competition in the group stage after having won it the previous year.
Chelsea has experienced both highs and lows so far this season and will be looking to return back to winning form. They will have to contend will several first team starters being unavailable for Thursday's match.
David Luiz will be out due to suspension, while Oriol Romeu is still recovering from injury. Demba Da is ineligible because he featured for Newcastle earlier in the tournament, while John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses recently returned from Africa after they helped Nigeria capture the African Cup of Nations title.
Still, Chelsea will be relying on Gary Cahill and John Terry to anchor a defense that has been porous at various stages of the current football season. They will be focused on brining at least one piece of silverware for their troubles this campaign.
For Martin Hasek and Sparta Prague, their task will be to contain the fluidity of the Chelsea midfield and attacking prowess that the European champions bring. However, Chelsea has been shown to be complacent on defensive and susceptible to counter attacks, which Hasek should look to exploit.
Hasek will look to put striker Vaclav Kadlec in forward positions on the counter, given that he has scored four goals in six Europa League starts for The Reds this season.
The 20-year-old has been the clubs main target since making his first team debut at the age of 16.
Kick-off for the match is at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be watched online here.