Chelsea are in most picturesque Prague today to take on the storied club Slavia (once home to the most prolific goalscorer in football history, Pepi Bican — no, not Pelé) in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals.
Founded in 1892, they are the country’s second most successful team, after in-city rivals Sparta, and are the current Czech league leaders. Situated in the suburb of Vršovice in South-East Prague, Slavia play in the Eden Arena (named after the neighborhood, not the Chelsea player), where Chelsea played Bayern Munich in the 2013 Super Cup.
That game finished 2-2 and Chelsea lost in the shootout. The Blues should do a little better this time around.
This is the first leg of the quarterfinal, with the second leg to follow at the Bridge in a week’s time. The winner gets the winner of Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt in the semifinals.
Date / Time: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 20:00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Eden Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
Referee: Felix Zwayer — the man who was one of the VARs at the 2018 World Cup will take charge of his second Chelsea match ever. The first one was our 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the group stages of the 2015-16 Champions League.
Forecast: Cold, dry, light breeze
On TV: BT Sport 3 (UK); Galavision (USA); SONY TEN 1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live, Univision Deportes En Vivo (USA); SONY LIV (India)
Slavia Prague team news: Enjoying a healthy 7-point lead over second place Viktoria Plzeñ, and a whopping 15-point lead over third place Sparta, Slavia Prague look on course for their second Czech league title in the last three seasons. Led by former Chelsea prospect and leading goalscorer Miroslav Štoch, Slavia come in on a 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions (Cup, league, Europa), during which they’ve averaged 3.3 goals per games, including back to back 5-goal outputs.
Sarri has urged his team to be weary and treat this with every seriousness imaginable. The home side, as is the case for most underdogs, have everything to play for and nothing to lose. For them, this is a “dream” match and a chance to showcase themselves on Europe’s second biggest stage. However, Slavia coach Jindřich Trpišovský, the Czech Jürgen Klopp, will be without his biggest star, “their Hazard”, the suspended Tomáš Souček, while five other players are one yellow card away from a (suspension Olayinka, Boříl, Kúdela, Škoda,Traoré).
Slavia also play three days after this match, a big showdown in the Czech Cup against biggest rivals, Sparta Prague.
Chelsea team news: Chelsea have yet to lose in this year’s Europa League, winning 9 and drawing 1 of the 10 total matches. Dating back to 2013, the Blues are on a 13-match unbeaten run in the competition, two shy of Atlético Madrid’s record.
All 21 players of the active squad traveled, and should be available, although rotation is expected, at least half the team from Monday’s 2-0 win over West Ham. Chelsea must concentrate and not be distracted by the upcoming trip to Anfield on Sunday, a game that will prove massive in both our top four fight and Liverpool’s Premier League title ambitions.
But first, Europa!
Previously: You’ve probably seen the video of Slavia players reacting to drawing Chelsea for the quarterfinal match-up.
Now, read this excellent article for a bit of background on that, and the club itself.