Preview: Sparta Prague vs. Chelsea

Preview: Sparta Prague vs. Chelsea
© PA Photos
Sports Mole looks ahead to Chelsea's trip to Sparta Prague in the Europa League.

The Europa League is not a competition that Chelsea would have prepared for at the start of the season.

Having won the Champions League last time out, the Blues had set themselves the target of becoming the first club to retain that title.

However, having failed to get through the group phase, Chelsea find themselves in Europe's second-ranked tournament.

First up in the knockout stages is Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic. While they were not prolific during their group encounters, 20-year-old striker Vaclav Kadlec did manage to score on four occasions.

They may also have a face familiar to Chelsea in their starting lineup in the form of former Blues midfielder Jiri Jarosik.

The hosts will be fresh as well, having not played a competitive fixture since the first week of December. During their winter break, they played a couple of friendlies leading up to this match.

What's more, they are also unbeaten in their last 11 matches at home in all competitions.

If Chelsea are to break that sequence of results, they are likely to have to do so without the services of captain John Terry, who is suffering with a knee injury.

John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses could be in contention for a place in the squad, though, after they returned from a successful stint at the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria.

Recent form:

Sparta Prague: WDWWDW

Chelsea: WDWDLW

Possible starting lineups:

Sparta Prague: Cech; Zapotocny, Vidlicka, Hybs, Svejdik; Matejovsky, Jarosik, Husbauer, Kaderabek; Kweuke, Kadlec

Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Bertrand; Mikel, Ramires, Lampard; Hazard, Marin; Ba

Sports Mole says: 1-1

Juan Mata and Eden Hazard celebrate a Chelsea goal on December 5, 2012
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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City23202167175062
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd23155348163250
3Liverpool23138254282647
4Chelsea23145441162547
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs23135546212544
6Arsenal23116641301139
7Burnley239771920-134
8Leicester CityLeicester238783432231
9Everton2376102538-1327
10Watford2375113342-926
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2367102941-1225
12Crystal Palace2367102133-1225
13Bournemouth2366112435-1124
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2366111939-2024
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2365122131-1023
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2358101729-1223
17Southampton2349102334-1121
18Stoke CityStoke2355132350-2720
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom23310101830-1219
20Swansea CitySwansea2345141435-2117
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