A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s second leg against Slavia Prague.
This Thursday Chelsea host Slavia Prague in the second leg of their quarter final match of this season’s Europa League. The Blues are among the favorites to win the competition, but had to work very hard to gain a win the opening leg in the Czech Republic. However, their 1-0 lead puts them in a commanding position.
Whilst the competition for the top 4 in the Premier League keeps ascending to boiling point, a home match against a relative minnow on the european front should come as a welcome distraction for The Blues. Their defeat away to Liverpool will have come as a knock to their confidence, but a home match under the floodlights of Stamford Bridge with a goal advantage could well see Sarri’s team regain all the belief they had built up during a run of only 1 defeat in 12 matches.
Antonio Rudiger limped off with a minor knee injury on Sunday and will miss out. Ethan Ampadu and Marcos Alonso, the match winner in the first leg, are also doubts. So Andreas Christensen will return to the starting line up alongside David Luiz, while the current club captain Gary Cahill could be included on the bench. If so, it will be his first appearance since beating PAOK Salonika back in November.
Otherwise, the manager is likely to make a few changes depending on his perceived thoughts on the players fitness levels. Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Eden Hazard could be rested with Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud being recalled.
Callum Hudson-Odoi was not part of the squad in the first leg, but having been substituted in both the last 2 Premier League matches, he could be included. After all, The Blues do have a full 4 days after this match before playing again, at home to Burnley.
Slavia are 5 points clear at the top of the Czech Republic’s top division with only 2 matches remaining in their domestic season. Former Blues midfielder Miroslav Stoch pulled the strings for Slavia in the first leg as the Czech side enjoyed more shots in total and more on target than Chelsea. They played with an intensity that The Blues struggled to cope with, until the introduction of Hazard turned the match in Chelsea’s favour.
Jindrich Trpisovsky’s side have played very well in previous away european ties already this season, especially at former cup holders Sevilla in the last round. So this will not be that straight forward a match, especially with the visitors believing they have nothing to lose.
However, Slavia are winless against English opponents in their previous 8 attempts, including their only match against Chelsea last Thursday. So as long as The Blues remain focused and approach the match very professionally, they will at least protect their lead. That will leave them just 3 matches away from winning another European trophy and gaining the all important qualification for next season’s Champions League.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue