EURO 2012 PREVIEW: CZECH REPUBLIC
With the European Championships set to start later today, we finish our analysis of those teams featuring Chelsea players with an in-depth look at Czech Republic, who take on Russia in their opening game.
Petr Cech, who enjoyed a fantastic end to the season, will start in goal for the Czech Republic, and his home nation will fancy their chances of progressing from a group containing Euro 2004 winners Greece, along with Russia and joint hosts Poland.
However, following a far from convincing passage through qualifying, Michal Bilak's side needed a 3-0 aggregate play-off win over Montenegro to book their place among the European elite, and they will need to improve if they are to stand any chance of making a big impact.
Their first two matches, against Russia and Greece, could prove pivotal before they head into what looks like a very tough examination in the final group game against joint hosts Poland, in what is sure to be an intimidating atmosphere.
In truth, there isn't too much pressure on the Czech's approaching the tournament. However, historically, they tend to perform on the big stage, as their record in past competitions will testify, and they could be one of the dark horses.
This will be their fifth appearance in the competition, though, and their record stands up against most other nations. Having won the tournament in 1976 [as Czechoslovakia], they were beaten by Germany in the 1996 Final at Wembley, while in 2004 they suffered extra-time heartbreak in the semi-finals at the hands of Greece.
Cech and Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky are the household names in the squad, but keep an eye out for Bayer Leverkusen left-back Michal Kadlec who scored four goals in qualification and could be a big threat.
Friday 8 June: Russia v Czech Republic, kick-off 7.45 pm
Tuesday 12 June: Greece v Czech Republic, kick-off 5pm
Saturday 16 June: Czech Republic v Poland, kick off 7.45pm