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.
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.