Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of the second leg of the Europa League last-eight clash between Chelsea and Slavia Prague.
Maurizio Sarri has targets to meet in two competitions, but the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon may just lead to the Italian showing more priority to success on the European scene.
Chelsea are again outsiders to claim a top-four place in the league standings, but the Blues are in a strong position to move through to a semi-final tie with either Benfica or Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League.
However, Alonso’s late goal could prove to be the difference in this tie, and it would come as a surprise if Sarri does not opt to name a strong starting lineup at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s defeat at Anfield ended a run of four successive wins in all competitions, but the West Londoners are still yet to suffer defeat in 11 matches in the Europa League.
Four clean sheets in a row have also been recorded, but an injury to Antonio Rudiger may lead to Sarri having to throw more caution to the wind in a bid to improve Chelsea’s strike-rate in front of goal.
More opportunities have been created since Sarri tinkered with his tried-and-trusted system, but Chelsea are still missing too many chances when they get the ball into the penalty area.
That may not prove to be as decisive against Slavia rather than versus one of their rivals in the Premier League, but Chelsea will only qualify for next season’s Champions League if they find a better solution going forward.
Recent form: DWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWL
Slavia impressed many observers with their display against Chelsea last week, but the leaders of the Czech top flight face an uphill task in order to reach the last four of a European competition for the first time since 1995.
Nevertheless, Slavia will still believe that they can progress from this tie, and six goals have been netted in their previous two away fixtures in this competition.
Slavia came from behind to score four times against Genk at the last-32 stage, while they also found the back of the net on two occasions when playing Sevilla in Spain.
That return should ensure that Chelsea are not complacent ahead of this fixture, but the Blues will also be wary that they cannot afford to push too many players forward in an attempt to wrap up the win.
Slavia have been in fine form on the domestic scene with 17 points being registered from their last seven outings, although they were held to a 1-1 draw against city rivals Sparta Prague at the weekend.
Tomas Soucek was the player who was on target for Slavia, and the Czech Republic international was a big miss for Trpisovsky during the first leg.
Soucek and former Chelsea attacker Miroslav Stoch have netted 22 goals between them in the league this season, but this is a well-rounded side who have scored from all areas of the pitch throughout this season.
Recent form: WDWDWL
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWLD
Slavia welcome back Soucek into midfield, but that could prove to be Trpisovsky’s only change from the first leg.
Petr Sevcik will likely be the player to drop down to the substitutes’ bench having started just two of Slavia’s five knockout fixtures.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi
Slavia Prague possible starting lineup:
Kolar; Coufal, Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Deli, Boril; Traore, Soucek, Kral; Stoch; Masopust, Olayinka
Head To Head
Last week’s fixture represented the first-ever competitive encounter between the two clubs.
Chelsea are now undefeated in seven matches against opposition from the Czech Republic, while Slavia are playing a European contest in England for the first time since drawing 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in 2008.
We say: Chelsea 3-1 Slavia Prague
Slavia have shown throughout this tournament that they are capable of scoring goals against better opposition, but Chelsea are likely to improve on last week’s performance. We are backing Slavia to net an away goal, although it may prove to be a consolation with Chelsea having the quality to register a comfortable win.