After yet another momentous round in the Champions League, the football world’s attention, or what’s left of it, turns to the Europa League.
Chelsea’s slim 1-0 lead from last week’s first leg in Prague actually makes this the closest, and possibly most competitive matchup, with Arsenal (2-0), Benfica (4-2), and Valencia (1-3) all holding two-goal leads at half-time of their quarterfinal match-ups. Arsenal do have to go to Naples today, which can be a tough assignment.
Slavia have already eliminated one of the big favorites from this year’s Europa League, Sevilla, so Chelsea will have to be on their toes, especially with the Premier League’s top four race not exactly looking that promising at the moment.
Date / Time: Thursday, April 18, 2019, 20:00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Damir Skomina — forever remembered as one of the referees during that magical 2011-12 Champions League run (2-1 vs. Benfica), this will be the seventh Chelsea match of the Slovenian official’s career and Chelsea have not won any of the other five since. Our European run came to end last season with him in charge, as we ran out of luck against Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16.
Forecast: A bright sunshiny day; let’s hope we can see the task at hand clearly now.
On TV: BT Sport 3 (UK); Galavision (USA); SONY TEN 1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live (USA); SONY LIV (India)
Chelsea team news: Antonio Rüdiger is the one major absentee, having picked up a knee injury over the weekend, and he’s expected to be out for at least another 10 days, until the game against Manchester United at the end of the month. Andreas Christensen will likely deputize until then.
Sarri’s rotation policy should call for the likes of Willian and Pedro and Giroud to finish the job against Slavia, though they didn’t exactly impress the last time out, especially Pedro whose form seems to have fallen off a cliff.
Despite the team’s inconsistencies, Chelsea have only lost two games at home all season. If we avoid a third, we’re in the semifinals to face the winner of Benfica vs. Eintracht Frankfurt.
Slavia Prague team news: Slavia played out a 1-1 home draw against rivals Sparta over the weekend to keep 15 points ahead of them but now only 5 points ahead of defending champions Viktoria Plzeñ. Slavia’s goal was scored by “their Hazard”, Tomáš Souček, who was suspended for the first leg against Chelsea. Right back Vladimir Coufal is a fitness doubt.
Previously: Marcos Alonso with the winner!