Match Preview

PMB: Slavia Prague v Chelsea - matchday

The final part of the Pre-Match Briefing gets you ready for today's game...


• After his show-stopping performance on Monday, could we be tempted to rebrand Slavia’s stadium the garden of Eden after this evening, or will he sit this one out? With a mere two days either side of this fixture, a big test at Anfield on Sunday, and the return leg in London to come, it would be no surprise to see a few key players rested tonight. Ross Barkley is one yellow card away from suspension.

• Chelsea have won nine games and have a goal difference of +21, the best performance in the Europa League this season. Away goals count in this competition, so the Blues will want to score at least once in Prague. Without a direct free-kick goal in the Premier League, Maurizio Sarri’s men have managed four in this competition, the most of any team.
 


• Ukrainians Dynamo Kiev found the speed and intensity of the Londoners’ play too much for them in the previous round, especially in London. They elected to press higher up the field in an attempt to keep the danger men at bay, only to lose 8-0 on aggregate. Slavia are a more talented and tactical team. In their last Europa League matches they pushed up high when Sevilla had goal-kicks, hoping to make them launch the ball and lose possession.


THREE IN ONE QUIZ


• Slavia coach Jindrich Trpisovsky, 43, formerly of Victoria Zizkov, has used a back four in every Europa League game this season except, poignantly, the home leg against their toughest opposition to date, Sevilla. The Czechs won 4-3 using all three centre-backs in a counter-attacking 3-5-1-1 system because regular right-back Vladimir Coufal was suspended. Former Blues forward Miroslav Stoch dropped deep to help defend the centre, the wing-backs man-marked their Sevilla counterparts, and there were lots of long balls up to the tall, powerful Milan Skoda.

• Tonight it is influential central midfielder Tomas Soucek’s turn to be banned. The Czech international (who played throughout England’s recent 5-0 victory) scored Slavia’s second and set up their third in the impressive extra-time Round of 16 success against Sevilla.


• Box-to-box midfielder Ibrahim Traore, the match-winner against the Spaniards, is one of five Red-and-Whites who would miss the second leg in London if booked, alongside Jan Boril, Ondrej Kudela, Peter Olayinka and Skoda. Skoda (with 23) and his team (187) have committed 36 fouls more than anyone else left in the competition.


Maurizio Sarri's pre-match quotes


‘They [Slavia Prague] scored six goals in two matches against Sevilla. We need to be very compact and to defend very well. Especially on crosses they attack the box with five or six players, and they are dangerous on counter-attacks. It won’t be easy for us.’

Slavia boss Jindrich Trpisovsky's pre-match quotes

‘Chelsea are extraordinarily strong. The teams they eliminated were really strong too. They have the best defence among all the English teams. Mix of fitness, strength in duels and football quality makes them complex team. There is an elite club standing against us. But we wanted Chelsea to be drawn against us, we want to compare, test what we can do. I am glad we have such an opportunity.’


MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Referee Felix Zwayer and his four assistants are all from Germany. The 37-year-old official’s only previous Chelsea match was a 4-0 Champions League group stage victory against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in September 2015.
 

Matchday weather outlook

It is going to be dry but cold in Prague tonight.


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