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Chelsea vs. Sparta Prague, Europa League: Team News & Preview

"Fortress" Stamford Bridge braces for another Continental "assault." Europa League football!

Warren Little

Problems, problems, problems; it's hard out there for Mr. Interim Failure. First, it's mo' money, mo' problems. Then, it's mo' games, mo' problems. Then, it's mo' injuries, mo' problems. And now it's mo' competition, mo' problems. All the problems! Positively no-no-no-notorious.

We have more competition now, which is a problem, but it's good for me. It's good because we have so many games and it's important to have the whole squad available.


Way to save it, champ. So it's good for you then? Oh, right, because rotation. I mean Rafatation. One can always count of Rafatation to keep things interesting ... because, after all, there's nothing more interesting than results such as 0-1 home defeats to Queens Park Rangers, right?

So excited! Like that time I had to deal with Comcast customer service. And by time I mean the last 48 hours - which included two trips to the local office, three live chats, and four phone calls - that it took those cacophony of idiots to activate HBO and a new HD box on my line of service. Feeling punchy and not in a casual way.

Viva la Rafatación!

Date/Time: Thursday, February 21, 20:05 GMT; 3:05 P.M. EST; 1:35 A.M. IST (next day)

Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6

TV Information: ESPN (UK); Fox Soccer (USA); TEN Sports (India)

Online: FOXSoccer2Go

So I guess this is a "late" game then for the Europa League slate. Hurray for more odd kickoff times!

Chelsea: The grinning idiot claims that the team is great and positive because it has scored plenty of goals and has been strong in defense. Except, you know, when they get shut out by the aforementioned QPR. Or when they lose hilariously to Corinthians. Or when they concede two+ to the likes of Reading and Brentford and Newcastle. Or when they simply struggle to play anything non-insipid like last Thursday. But hey, flat-track bullying the likes of Aston Villa and Leeds sure is a positive sign, right? Or scoring four in the last 35 at home versus Brentford, right? Those first 55 scoreless minutes though, those sure were impressive.

But fear not, Fernando Torres shall be back for this one! Having perfected the art of tamely shooting straight at the goalkeeper last week, I'm sure he will still manage to dazzle us in fresh, new, and unexpected ways. The gift that keeps on giving, Torres is.

Rivaling Oscar as biggest victim of Rafatación, John Obi Mikel should make his belated return to the first team in this one as well, while both Frank Lampard and the overworked Branislav Ivanovic are going to catch a breather. Of course, neither of those two should be automatic starters in an ideal Chelsea lineup, so I'm not really sure why their non-selection would merit a press conference mention - why not tell me about Juan Mata instead? - but Rafatación works in mysterious ways.

Sparta Prague: Sparta lost the first leg but they may yet win the race. The race of misfiring strikers, that is. David Lafata may be the leading scorer in the Czech League, but all he had to offer was a litany of hilarious misses and fluffed chances. Thanks David! I'm sure the check, signed by ... umm ... Tornando Ferres is in the mail.

The one big news for the underdogs is that ex-Chelsea janitor Jiri Jarosik has recovered from injury and should be back to anchor the team. The man, who arrived as part of what I'm sure was some money-laundering operation, won the double with Chelsea (or is that just a one-and-a-half if it's the League Cup instead of the FA Cup?) back in 2005-06. He even started* that memorable - I love you, Steven Gerrard own goal! - League Cup final versus Liverpool, who were of course managed by none other than ... umm ... yeah.


* Jarosik was subbed at half-time with Chelsea down 0-1. Mourinho was later fined by the FA for the illegal, before 80th minute substitution.

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