Who: Chelsea FC vs. AC Sparta Prague
What: Europa League round of 32 (Second leg)
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
When: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel
Time: 20:05 GMT/3:05 p.m. ET/12:05 p.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel (USA), ESPN UK / HD (UK)
Worldwide Live Streams and : LiveSoccerTV.com
Referee: Aleksandar Stavrev (Macedonia)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -400, Sparta Prague +750, Draw +400
Total: Over 2½ -125, Under 2½ -109
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.25, Sparta Prague 8.50, Draw 5.00
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.80, Under 2½ 1.91
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 1/4, Sparta Prague 15/2, Draw 4/1
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 4/5, Under 2½ 91/100
Odds Europa League: Chelsea +450 (9/2), Sparta Prague +75,000 (750/1)
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Despite all its recent trials and tribulations, Chelsea heads into the second leg of its Europa League Round of 32 game against Sparta Prague with an increasingly healthier roster and a three-game win streak.
And although victories against Brentford (FA Cup), Sparta (Europa League, leg 1) and Wigan Athletic (English Premier League) aren't exactly the stuff legends are built around, outscoring opponents 9-1 and having stalwarts like Petr Čech, John Terry and David Luiz back from their injuries is certainly a good place to start for the Blues.
Chelsea defeated Sparta 1-0 a week ago in the first leg of this matchup on a goal by Oscar, and can advance to the Round of 16 with a draw or win on Thursday at home.
The Blues will be without striker Demba Ba, who is cup-tied after having played for Newcastle United earlier in the competition, so Fernando Torres will undoubtedly get the start up top for the European champions.
For Czech side Sparta, Jiří Jarošík—a former Blue—is expected to be back after missing the opening leg, and should combine with the recently acquired David Lafata, Václav Kadlec and Ladislav Krejčí to provide a challenging offensive test for the Blues' renowned defense.
Sparta played an extremely competitive match against Chelsea in the opener in the Czech capital, but it was former goalkeeper Čech who essentially ended up being the difference in the Blues' win.
In goal for Sparta, Tomáš Vaclík played a strong game for manager Vítězslav Lavička's side in the first leg, but the 23-year-old Czech will have to be even more effective in West London for his club to have any chance to pull off the major upset and advance on in the tournament.
Expect Sparta, down a goal on aggregate, to force a quick pace early in this one and make this match more entertaining than die-hard Blues fans would probably like.
But with Chelsea returning to health and really focusing on this tournament—as well as the FA Cup and a top-four finish in the Premier League—the better team should prevail here with midfielders Juan Mata, Victor Moses and Oscar all scoring for Chelsea.
BETS: Chelsea -400, Over 2½ +110
PREDICTION: Chelsea 3 Sparta Prague 1
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11