Thu 21 Feb 2013 20:05 (Attendance: 38,642)
Stamford Bridge hosts Europa League football for the first time with Chelsea noses in front in the tie. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton set out the second-leg task…
Victory over Brentford in the FA Cup kept Chelsea on course to play a possible 71 games this season, excluding replays. The team has managed three successive wins for the first time since late December and in each of them the Blues have scored within a minute of a substitute taking the field.
Juan Mata opened the scoring for Chelsea on Sunday for the eighth time this season in all competitions and his career strike rate in the FA Cup is now five goals in 10 matches.
Prague arrive in London knowing they face a difficult task overcoming the 1-0 first-leg lead earned by Oscar's clever strike a week ago. The Londoners have not lost at Stamford Bridge in UEFA tournaments since Manchester United's 1-0 success in 2011.
The nine matches since have brought eight wins and one draw, with an aggregate 28 goals for the hosts - more than three per match. Fifty-five years of history also weighs heavily against the Czechs' chances.
The Pensioners have previously been victorious in the first legs of knockout ties nine times in Europe and have progressed to the next round on each occasion: Benfica in 2011/12, FC Copenhagen in 2010/11, Liverpool in 2008/09, Stuttgart and Zilina in 2003/04, Betis in 1997/98, Jeunesse Hautcharage in 1971/72, CSKA Sofia in 1970/71 and BK Frem in 1958/60.
Should Fernando Torres make the scoresheet tonight he will become the first Chelsea player to score in seven different competitions over the same season. Until this season the club record was held by Andriy Shevchenko, who netted in five tournaments during 2006/07.
The Blues have struck 17 times in Europe this season, the most for any club in UEFA competitions. Two goals against Sparta tonight would bring our all-time UEFA tally to 300.
With a total of 105 goals in all competitions Chelsea are the second highest scorers across Europe's five biggest leagues. Barcelona are the continent's most prolific with 115. Real Madrid are third with 96.
With several matches remaining that tally could come close to our record, which stands at 142 in 2009/10. The next closest are 121 in 1964/5, 117 in 1960/61 and 2006/07, 112 in 2011/12 and 110 in 2008/09.
The winners of this tie face a Round of 16 encounter with either runaway league leaders in Romania, Steaua Bucharest, or Ajax, currently second in the Netherlands' Eredivisie. Ajax lead 2-0 from the first leg at the Amsterdam ArenA with the second leg tonight in Bucharest. Should Chelsea progress we will be away in the first leg.
Selection of the 16 second-leg Europa League ties tonight
Lyon v Tottenham 6pm (agg 1-2)
Metalist Kharkiv v Newcastle 6pm (agg 0-0)
Chelsea v Sparta Prague 8.05pm (agg 1-0)
Liverpool v Zenit St Petersburg 8.05pm (agg 0-2)
Steaua Bucharest v Ajax 8.05pm (agg 0-2)
If the score after 90 minutes is 1-0 to Sparta then extra time will be played and if necessary penalties. The away goals rule applies so any other score will result in the game ending after normal time.
Chelsea have won three of our last five penalty shoot-outs, the last being at the Allianz Arena at the end of the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
Ajax or Steaua Bucharest await in the Round of 16 should Chelsea complete the task after a fine 1-0 win over Sparta in Prague. Here are some pointers from that first leg.
Chelsea are able to bring more experience into the side than faced Sparta in Prague last week. The experienced defensive pair Ashley Cole and John Terry remained on the bench at the Generali Arena and David Luíz was suspended.
Goalscorer Oscar came on as a sub while Fernando Torres will almost certainly start having sat out the Brentford win as Demba Ba is ineligible, having already played in the tournament for Newcastle United.
In that first leg Chelsea's speed and incisiveness, especially in the first 20 minutes when the hosts appeared anxious, caused several problems and would have had an easier evening but for indecisive finishing, Tomáš Vaclík unfortunately proving a magnet for shots despite poor handling on occasions.
There were also some warning signs for the Blues, and not just that Sparta soon identified ways to stifle the supply to the three attacking midfielders - isolating Juan Mata especially - and restrict the visitors' creativity in the final third.
Prolific goalscorer David Lafata impressed for the Czechs on his debut and his elusiveness twice created openings that might have troubled their compatriot Petr Cech more than was the case.
There was enough technical quality in the rest of their team to suggest that defensive lapses could be punished and Vítězslav Lavička will remind his men they only need one goal to cancel out the Londoners' slim advantage.
The Sparta coach has to balance the requirement to score against the necessity to resist Chelsea, which is no mean feat. Taking the shackles off the Blues' midfield is dangerous: Mata has scored in three of his last five matches, Oscar two in two (and our top scorer in Europe this season with five). Frank Lampard has hit four in five and has now played 101 games for us in Europe, netting 24 times, but Rafael Benitez has announced that he and Branislav Ivanovic will be rested tonight.
Instinctively cautious as a tactician Lavička is more likely to attempt to thwart the hosts for as long as possible and hope for some success on counter-attacks.
Sparta were playing their first competitive match since early November and showed signs of tiredness towards the end, when the breakthrough came. However the Czech league season resumes at the weekend and they will have edged closer to peak fitness tonight.
The FA Cup win over League One Brentford came from a long Cech kick that bypassed a midfield area they had intentionally congested and, following Ba's physical intervention, found Mata in a dangerous area able to shoot on goal.
Chelsea will also aim to make set plays count at the Bridge. At the weekend John Terry netted first FA Cup goal in almost three years and, having returned from an extended injury, will be keen to strike in Europe for the first time since another header in the memorable 4-1 demolition of Napoli.
Of course when he draws up his team Benítez will take into consideration the Premier League trip to second-placed Manchester City on Sunday. A win for the Blues would close the gap to one point and extend our lead over Spurs, who play at West Ham on Monday evening.
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Our only previous competitive meetings with Sparta Prague came in the 2003/04 group stage of the Champions League in a pool including Beşiktaş and Lazio. William Gallas helped us to a 1-0 win in Prague and a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge which secured our place in the knockout stages. Sparta also qualified for the last 16 by finishing runners-up.
Supporters of any vintage might have experienced a sense of déjà-vu last Thursday in the Generali Arena when Oscar coolly found the net after a delightful move. A Chelsea side often under pressure but refusing to buckle and stinging Sparta late in the game had the ring of that group stage match in 2003/04 about it.
Back then Gallas stole in to score the only goal of the game with five minutes to go - three later than the Brazilian's recent winner.
The 0-0 at the Bridge later in the group was a dull affair but sufficient to secure a place in the last 16, eventually to face and overcome Stuttgart. The Blues bowed out in the semi-finals to Monaco that season, having memorably seen off Arsenal in the quarters.
The Cup Winners' Cup visit of another Prague side in 1994/95 was more eventful. It was Chelsea's first competitive European match in 23 years and Stamford Bridge was in the throes of redevelopment on a night of torrential rain.
The north and south ends of the stadium had had the stands removed - the north end was board up while the old Shed had been replaced by temporary seating exposed to the raw elements - limiting the crowd to just over 22,000.
Visitors Viktoria Žižkov were blown away in the opening exchanges, with Paul Furlong (pictured below) and Frank Sinclair putting the hosts 2-0 up inside five minutes. The Czechs gradually gathered themselves and hit back twice through attacking midfielder Jozef Majoros to level the scores before half-time.
Glenn Hoddle's men rallied again after the break and David Rocastle restored the lead on 54 minutes. Dennis Wise then raised the roof with a thunderous left-foot strike to complete the scoring at 4-2. Again the Blues reached the semi-final in the competition, this time losing to Gus Poyet's Real Zaragoza, who - thanks, famously, to Nayim from the halfway line - beat Arsenal in the final.
Chelsea's biggest away win in Europe
Chelsea 13-0 Jeunesse Hautcharage - 29/09/1971 - European Cup Winners' Cup first round second leg
Sparta's biggest away win in Europe
Anorthosis Famagusta 0-6 Sparta Prague - 20/09/1964 - European Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round second leg
Chelsea last played at Stamford Bridge in this competition: 3,808
Sparta beat an English team away in UEFA competition: 10,683
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,832
Liverpool won the league: 8,327
Visit again at lunchtime for more briefing.
This is the 25th successive midweek that our players have either played for the club or been away on international duty. The last clear week all the players were at Cobham training was the last week of August leading up to the Super Cup against Atlético Madrid.
The Blues are unbeaten in nine home European games (eight wins, one draw) since losing to Manchester United in the 2010/11 Champions League quarter-finals.
Petr Cech played for Sparta as a 19-year-old in the 2001/02 season before moving to French side Rennes at the end of that season.
Although we are making our debut in the Europa League, we have played three unsuccessful seasons in the UEFA Cup.
|Rd 1||St Gallen||H 1-0||A 0-2|
|Rd 1||Levski Sofia||H 3-0||A 2-0|
|Rd 2||Hapoel Tel-Aviv||A 0-2||H 1-1|
|Rd 1||Viking Stavanger||H 2-1||A 2-4|
The average crowd at Stamford Bridge for our previous four UEFA Cup ties is 20,803 with the highest attendance of 28,433 against Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
The Blues are looking to become the only English club to win all three major UEFA competitions having won the Champions League last season and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 and 1998. Three clubs that have achieved it are Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich.
|Chelsea's home record against Czech teams|
|1994/95||Viktoria Žižkov||W 4-2||Cup Winners' Cup first round second leg|
|2003/04||Sparta Prague||D 0-0||Champions League group stage|
Chelsea's last ten years in Europe
2002/03 - UEFA Cup - first round
2003/04 - Champions League - semi-final
2004/05 - Champions League - semi-final
2005/06 - Champions League - round of 16
2006/07 - Champions League - semi-final
2007/08 - Champions League - runners-up
2008/09 - Champions League - semi-final
2009/10 - Champions League - round of 16
2010/11 - Champions League - quarter-final
2011/12 - Champions League - winners
|Champions League Group E final table|
|Last six results|
|Jan 27||Brentford (FA Cup 4 a)||D 2-2|
|Jan 30||Reading (a)||D 2-2|
|Feb 2||Newcastle (a)||L 2-3|
|Feb 9||Wigan (h)||W 4-1|
|Feb 14||Sparta Prague (Europa League a)||W 1-0|
|Feb 17||Brentford (FA Cup h)||W 4-0|
Scorers Mata 17, Torres 15 (1 pen), Lampard 13 (5 pens), E Hazard 9 (2 pens), Oscar 9 (1 pen), Cahill 6, Ivanovic 6, Ramires 6, Moses 5, D Luiz 4 (2 pens), Ba 3, Bertrand 2, Sturridge 2, Terry 2, Cole 1, Marin 1, Romeu 1 (pen), own goals 3. Total 105.
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Sun 24 Feb||Manchester City away||1.30pm|
|Wed 27 Feb||Middlesbrough (FA Cup 5) away||7.45pm|
|Sat 2 Mar||West Brom home||3pm|
If selected, Ashley Cole will make his 300th appearance for Chelsea and Gary Cahill his 50th start for the Blues.
Petr Cech is due to make his 100th career European appearance tonight. 83 of his 99 so far have been with Chelsea.
Congratulations to Branislav Ivanovic who celebrates his 29th birthday tomorrow (Friday).
24 Czechoslovak league titles, last in 1993
12 Czechoslovak Cups, last in 1992
11 Czech Republic league titles, last in 2010
5 Czech Republic Cups, last in 2008
1 Czech Republic Super Cup in 2010
When Sparta last reached the last 32 in 2010/11 they were beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Liverpool. Their best season in this competition was 1983/84 when they reached the quarter-finals.
Sparta Prague haven't beaten English opposition at home since 1983. Their six games since then have resulted in five defeats and one draw.
|Last ten league seasons|
Last week's first leg was Sparta's first competitive match since 6 December 2012 due to the winter break in their league. Since returning to training in January they have played five friendlies, the last three of which were at a training camp in Jerez, Spain.
The Czech league resumes this coming Sunday.
|Mid-season friendly results|
|Jan 23||Dukla Banská Bystrica||D 0-0|
|Jan 25||Ružomberok||W 4-0|
|Feb 1||Guangzhou||D 1-1|
|Feb 4||Krasnodar||L 2-3|
|Feb 6||Concordia Chiajna||W 3-1|
|Sparta's away games against English teams in Europe|
|1964/65||West Ham||L 0-2||Cup Winners' Cup first round second leg|
|1970/71||Leeds||L 0-6||Fairs Cup third round second leg|
|1983/84||Watford||W 3-2||UEFA Cup third round second leg|
|2000/01||Arsenal||L 2-4||Champions League group stage|
|2003/04||Chelsea||D 0-0||Champions League group stage|
|2004/05||Man Utd||L 1-4||Champions League group stage|
|2005/06||Arsenal||L 0-3||Champions League group stage|
|2007/08||Arsenal||L 0-3||Champions League third qualifying round 1st leg|
|2010/11||Liverpool||L 0-1||Europa League round of 32 first leg|
Ten-year European record
2002/03 - UEFA Cup second round having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round
2003/04 - Champions League round of 16
2004/05 - Champions League group stage
2005/06 - Champions League group stage
2006/07 - UEFA Cup group stage
2007/08 - UEFA Cup group stage having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round
2008/09 - UEFA Cup first round having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round
2009/10 - Europa League group stage having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round
2010/11 - Europa League round of 32 having transferred from the Champions League play-offs
2011/12 - Europa League play-offs
|2012/13 Europa League results|
|Third qualifying round|
|Aug 2||FC Admira Wacker Mödling (a)||W 2-0|
|Aug 9||FC Admira Wacker Mödling (h)||D 2-2|
|Aug 23||Feyenoord (a)||D 2-2|
|Aug 30||Feyenoord (h)||W 2-0|
|Sep 20||Lyon (a)||L 1-2|
|Oct 4||Athletic Bilbao (h)||W 3-1|
|Oct 25||Hapoel Kiryat Shmona (h)||W 3-1|
|Nov 8||Hapoel Kiryat Shmona (a)||D 1-1|
|Nov 22||Lyon (h)||D 1-1|
|Dec 6||Athletic Bilbao (a)||D 0-0|
|Feb 14||Chelsea (h)||L 0-1|
Europa League scorers (excluding qualifying games):
Hušbauer 2 (1 pen), Krejčí 2, Balaj 1, Kadlec 1, Kweuke 1, Švejdík 1, Zápotočný 1. Total 9.
|Europa League Group I final table|
|Hapoel Kiryat Shmona||6||0||2||4||6||13||2|
|Last six domestic results|
|Oct 31||Viktoria Žižkov (Cup a) won 4-3 on pens||D 1-1aet|
|Nov 3||Mladá Boleslav (a)||D 1-1|
|Nov 11||Zbrojovka Brno (h)||W 2-0|
|Nov 17||FK Teplice (h)||W 1-0|
|Nov 25||FK Příbram (a)||D 0-0|
|Nov 29||Vysočina Jihlava (Cup a)||D 1-1|
|Gambrinus Liga top six|
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Referee Aleksandar Stavrev, his two assistant referees and two additional assistant referees are all from Macedonia. Stavrev has never handled a Chelsea match but refereed the clash between our Group E rivals Juventus and Nordsjaelland, a 4-0 home win for the Italians.
There are no suspensions on either side. Demba Ba is ineligible, having previously played in this competition for Newcastle.
Europa League bookings list
Players receive a one-match suspension for collecting three and five yellow cards.
Sparta (12): Hušbauer 2, Kadlec 2, Matĕjovský 2, Zápotočný 2, Jarošík 1, Kaderabek 1, Kweuke 1, Pavelka 1.
Chelsea (7): D Luiz 3 (served one-match ban), Ramires 2, Cahill 1, Cole 1.
Eden Hazard's late, late show earned us a draw against a spirited Sparta side, enough to send us into the last 16 of the Europa League.
After a strong start, Chelsea were caught with a blow few had predicted, David Lafata firing the visiting side ahead 16 minutes in, but with chances continuing to come, it looked as though Chelsea would still progress with little trouble.
But chance after chance went begging, for Fernando Torres and Victor Moses in particular, and suddenly Sparta looked like they might nick it on the break as youngster Vaclav Kadlec twice broke clear, but in injury time, substitute Hazard stepped up and earned the necessary draw to avoid extra-time, cutting inside and blasting home to the relief of a full Stamford Bridge.
Rafael Benitez made five changes to the side which started against Brentford. Full-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Ryan Bertrand returned, with John Mikel Obi back after Nigeria's African Cup of Nations success alongside Ramires in central midfield. Demba Ba, cup-tied, was replaced by Torres up front.
Chelsea, already defending a one-goal lead from the first leg, almost doubled that advantage within five minutes when Torres released Moses down the right flank, and received the return pass on the edge of the box, just dragging his effort wide of the far post with Sparta's goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik at full stretch and looking beaten.
Oscar saw an effort deflected wide before at the other end it took a flying Azpilicueta block to deny Sparta striker David Lafata a goal when he reacted quickest to a loose ball dropping inside the Chelsea box.
Torres then lifted a Juan Mata cross onto the roof of the net from close range with Sparta's centre-backs split, and later headed a corner from his compatriot over the bar.
Chances were not sparse, but the sooner Chelsea could start taking them the sooner we could think about the next round. Sparta would soon show how it was done, and ensure a nervy night ahead in the process.
Once again the ball dropped loose inside the Chelsea area, and once again the visiting player reacted quickest, and when the ball was pulled back to Lafata this time he made no mistake, lashing it high into the roof of the net to draw his side level on aggregate.
Tomas Prikryl brought a near-post save from Petr Cech on the half-hour, and from the resulting corner, Marek Matejovsky, formerly of Reading, half-volleyed just over the bar.
After a bright start Chelsea were unsettled and it too considerable time before we were able to construct a meaningful attack once more. When we did, Azpilicueta's cross was cut out just before Torres could nod home.
Seven minutes before the break Mata came close to levelling, bringing down Ramires's long ball and turning past his man before shooting for goal, Vaclik just diverting it over with an instinctive save.
Just before the break, Torres headed over again from a Mikel cross. At least chances were still coming.
Neither side made changes at the interval, with Sparta set to counter, but it was Chelsea who almost scored on the break just a minute into the second half.
Oscar strode through midfield past a pair of challenges before finding the overlapping Ramires in the channel. The Brazilian shot first time, but saw his effort bounce back into play via a deflection and the outside of the post.
Not long later Torres went through but Vaclik saved well from the striker, and then palmed away a Terry flick that looked all the way like an equaliser.
The Blues continued to huff and puff, and Benitez called for Hazard and he considered changes. Oscar was the man sacrificed.
Moses, whose deflected effort was going wide, brought a diving save from Vaclik, as we approached the final 20 minutes. Pressure on Sparta's goal was beginning to increase, the visitors frequently operating with 11 men behind the ball.
A breakaway almost brought a second Sparta goal, but Cahill blocked from Kadlec Ramires dragged wide for Chelsea but then Tomas Zapotocny and Kadlec again both went close for the Czechs.
A Hazard free-kick, whipped from the left, evaded everybody but Vaclik, who punched clear despite an awkward bounce in front of him, and with the seconds ticking away Ramires's shot was blocked by a defender. Chelsea corner.
Mata crossed it low, Terry got something on it and it fell for Moses, on the swivel, six yards out. Somehow, the winger scooped it high.
As two minutes added time were announced it looked like we would be made to pay as Sparta broke again. Fortunately Kadlec shot wide. Then they broke again, and Cahill produced a stunning block on the same player.
Surely now extra time would come.
But wait. Hazard received possession down the left, and beat his man, cutting inside and back onto his right foot, before smashing an absolute rocket into the top corner of the Sparta net.
It was desperately cruel on Prague, but the Blues will not mind one bit. After the goal there was only time for sub Roman Bednar to be introduced before the referee blew the final whistle.
It is on to the last 16.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry (c), Bertrand; Ramires, Mikel; Moses, Mata, Oscar (Hazard 67); Torres.
Unused substitutes Turnbull, Cole, David Luiz, Ferreira, Marin, Benayoun.
Goal Hazard 90+1
Booked Bertrand 85
Sparta Prague (4-2-3-1): Vaclik; Zapotocny, Svejdik, Holek, Hybs; Matejovsky (c), Vacha; Prikryl, Kadlec (Bednar 90+3), Krejci; Lafata (Kweuke 82).
Unused substitutues M Cech, Pamic, Vidlicka, Polom, Janos.
Goal Lafata 16
Booked Lafata 43, Hybs 55, Prikryl 84, Matejovsky 87, Kwueke 90+1
Referee Aleksandar Stavrev (Macedonia)