Chelsea hope to avoid Europa League upset at Slavia Prague


Chelsea head into the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie with Slavia Prague in resurgent form, but will be aiming to avoid a European upset against the Czechs.

Blues boss Maurizio Sarri has admitted that Slavia are a ‘dangerous’ proposition for his side, with the hosts having snatched a last-gasp winner in extra time against Sevilla in the previous round to secure their place in the final eight.

The London outfit may have secured seven victories in their last nine games in all competitions, but they may still be reliant on lifting the Europa League trophy at the end of the campaign in order to qualify for the Champions League next season.

“We need to be very compact and to defend really well. On crosses they can attack with five or six players. It’s not easy for us,” Sarri admitted in his pre-match press conference.

The Italian is expected to make wholesale changes after Chelsea’s 2-0 win against West Ham on Monday. Willian, Pedro and Olivier Giroud are likely to line up from the off, with the latter currently boasting nine goals to his name.

Ross Barkley and Willy Cabellero are also likely to earn a spot in the starting XI, whilst either Antonio Rudiger or David Luiz may make way for youngster Andreas Christensen.

Supporters will also once again wish to see both English starlets Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi in action at the Sinobo Stadium.

Eden Hazard, who had so gracefully glided through West Ham’s defence to open the scoring earlier this week, will likely have to settle for a place among the substitutes, with Sarri describing the Belgian dazzler as “tired”.

The hosts will be without Tomas Soucek, after the midfielder picked up his third caution in the competition against Sevilla.

This will be the first competitive meeting between the two sides, although Slavia Prague’s past record against English teams leaves much to be desired. The Czech side have only emerged triumphant once in their last nine encounters – coming in a 2000 UEFA Cup clash with Leeds United.

Further signs also point towards Chelsea’s progression into the semi-finals, with the Stamford Bridge side progressing from nine out of their last ten quarter-finals in European football since the 2003/04 season. Manchester United were the last opponent to get the better of Chelsea, with that result coming in 2010/11.

But Slavia Prague possess enough firepower to pose a substantial threat for any side still remaining in the competition. Should they go on to lift the coveted trophy, it would be their maiden European title.

Jindrich Trpisovsky’s side are in the midst of a five-match unbeaten streak at home, with Slavia’s facing two defeats at Bordeaux and Zenit St Petersburg respectively.

And, fresh from one of the most memorable results in the club’s history, Chelsea’s Czech opponents will be looking to cause a major upset.


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