Chelsea take on Slavia Prague in the second leg of their UEL quarter final, looking to progress to the semi final of the competition.
They take a 1-0 lead to the second leg at the Bridge today after winning the 1st leg last Thursday in Prague.
The Blues may now see their best route for Champions League football next season through the Europa League now, after they were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool on Sunday, which dented their chances of a top four finish at the end of the season.
Results did not go Chelsea’s way, and as a result- they now sit fifth in the Premier League. And with only four games left in the Premier League- many Chelsea fans see winning the Europa League as the more probable of the two options now for Champions League football next season.
Their Visitors Slavia Prague, come into this second leg after putting in a good performance in the first leg, and many would argue that they deserved a positive result from the first leg.
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 in all competitions for both teams
Slavia Prague- W/D/W/W/L/D
Team News (Credit- Sportsmole)
Chelsea will be without Rudiger due to a knee injury, leaving David Luiz to partner Andreas Christensen in the centre of defence and Gary Cahill being handed a rare appearance on the bench.
Alonso is expected to return in place of Emerson Palmieri at left-back, while Ross Barkley is in line to replace Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield.
Olivier Giroud should start in attack, and Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi could get the nod on either flank due to Willian and Hazard playing 90 minutes against Liverpool.
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.
Predicted starting elevens
Chelsea predicted XI (4-3-3)- Kepa; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud.
Slavia Prague predicted XI (4-3-1-2) –Kolar; Coufal, Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Deli, Boril; Traore, Soucek, Kral; Stoch; Masopust, Olayinka.
Manager and Player Comments
Chelsea Assistant Manager: Gianfranco Zola (Quotes Credit- @NizaarKinsella on Twitter)
Zola dismisses talk around Chelsea and is focused on the pitch: “If we win the Europa League and finish fourth, it could be a remarkable season.”
Zola has described Rudiger injury as ‘not as bad as we thought.’
Adds, Rudiger has a ‘strong possibility’ to be back for Manchester United.
Chelsea Player: Olivier Giroud (Quotes Credit- @NizaarKinsella on Twitter)
Olivier Giroud on his future: He doesn’t want to have his option extended just to be a back up striker at Chelsea. “I want to play.”
Slavia Prague Manager: Jindrich Trpisovsky (Quotes Credit- @liam_twomey on Twitter)
He says his team only made two mistakes in the first leg & can be better than Chelsea at Stamford Bridge if they avoid making any here – but warns they will “pay twice” for any mistakes they do make.
Trpisovsky says playing at Stamford Bridge is a great experience but is keen to stress his Slavia Prague players are here “for a fight, for a war”
Trpisovsky says Slavia will watch some of Chelsea’s recent games but the bulk of their analysis has focused on the first leg in Prague
Trpisovsky asked if Slavia can take inspiration from Ajax’s win against Juventus: “I didn’t actually watch it because we were training. It is a miracle, but Ajax before that won over Real Madrid. They play amazing”
Trpisovsky: “I saw some of the transfer prices for the Chelsea players & it’s quite amazing. They are one of the biggest clubs in the world. We are just a small club from Czech Republic but we will not give up”
Trpisovsky on stopping Hazard: “I think he’s at the same level with Messi & Ronaldo. The same category. I really like watching him & I would love him to play tomorrow because it means Chelsea are taking us seriously.” Adds he wants to face “the best Chelsea”
Head to Head record
Last week’s fixture represented the first-ever competitive encounter between the two clubs. Marcos Alonso scored a late winner in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Slavia Prague, in Prague (Czech Republic) last Thursday.
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.
Betting Odds/Match Predictions
Sky Bet have made Chelsea favourites to pick up a win in this second leg of the UEL quarter final, with a win for the Blues being priced at 1/3. A draw between these two sides, which will also send Chelsea through the semi finals, is being priced at 18/5. And a shock Slavia Prague win, to send them through the semi final is being priced at 8/1.
My realistic prediction for this game as a journalist is a tight 2-1 win to Chelsea in the second leg (3-1 on aggregate).
My optimistic prediction for this game as a fan is a convincing 3-0 win to the Blues.
Comment down below your score predictions and your predicted line ups for this game. Will Callum Hudson-Odoi start? And if he does, will that mean that he won’t play against Burnley on Monday night in the Premier League?