Last year's Champions League winners wouldn't have been expecting to be competing in the Europa League at this stage of the season but that is exactly where Chelsea find themselves on Thursday night. Rafa Benitez's side travel to the Generali Arena to take on Sparta Prague for the first leg of their last 32-clash this week and the Blues are odds on favourites.
Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League at the group stages this season but they can console themselves with a place in the Europa League instead and only a win will do on Thursday. They are 8/11 on for this week's match with Bet365, who price Sparta 9/2 for the win and 14/5 for the draw.
Benitez may be happy to get away from Stamford Bridge this week as the dissent from the home faithful continues to plague his reign. He may be tempted to rotate his side as the club attempt to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League, although it is a risky business as defeat would ensure the pressure from fans increases ten-fold.
Benitez will have to do without the services of the cup-tied Demba Ba on Thursday, while John Terry is still injured. Ba's absence means Fernando Torres will lead the line, although his patchy form ensures that it might be worth looking elsewhere for Chelsea goalscorers. Frank Lampard has scored four in his last four outings for club and country and he is 6/1 to be first goalscorer as he bids to win a new contract at the club.
Juan Mata has also been in fine form this season, scoring two in his last three outings, and he is 11/2 to score first. The Spaniard has been involved in six goals in Chelsea's last five European games, scoring three and assisting three, and he could be a key man for the Blues. Chelsea welcome Victor Moses back from the African Cup of Nations and his pace will be a welcome addition to a midfield that has looked pedestrian in recent weeks.
The pace of Moses will be important when playing on the counter-attack away from home and he can help Chelsea reverse a run that has seen them fail to win any of their last four away games. They have scored at least two goals in six of their last seven on their travels though and B365 go 4/5 for Chelsea to score over 1.5 goals on Thursday.
Sparta, who are third in the Czech League, are returning from their winter break and they could be a bit rusty as they bid to protect a seven-match unbeaten run at home. Vaclav Kadlec is their main threat and he has scored four goals in Europe to take his tally to 11 goals for the season, with B365 going best price 12/1 he scores first and 4/1 he scores anytime.
The worry for Sparta is the fact they have never beaten English opposition in 10 attempts, losing seven, and Chelsea will be looking to build on their 4-1 league win over Wigan at the weekend. Chelsea are 15/2 to win by a 2-1 correct scoreline and that could be worth a look as Benitez bids to win a seemingly losing battle with Chelsea fans.
Sparta Prague v Chelsea Tips
Tip #1: Chelsea to score over 1.5 goals @ 4/5 with Bet365.
Tip #2: Vaclav Kadlec to score anytime @ 4/1 with Bet365.
Tip #3: Chelsea to win 2-1 @ 15/2 with Bet365.
9/2 Sparta Prague
To Qualify Betting
5/1 Sparta Prague
Correct Score Odds
12/1 Sparta Prague 1-0
28/1 Sparta Prague 2-0
16/1 Sparta Prague 2-1
9/1 Draw 0-0
6/1 Draw 1-1
16/1 Draw 2-2
5/1 Chelsea 1-0
6/1 Chelsea 2-0
15/2 Chelsea 2-1
First Goalscorer Odds
4/1 Fernando Torres
11/2 Juan Mata
6/1 Frank Lampard
8/1 Victor Moses
8/1 Eden Hazard
9/1 No Goalscorer
11/1 Leonard Kweuke
11/1 Yossi Benayoun
12/1 Marko Marin
12/1 Vaclav Kadlec
16/1 David Luiz
Odds supplied by Bet365.com, who offer live in-play betting for all Europa League matches.
|2014 World Cup Draw Preview England sweat on draw after FIFA confirms seedings|
World Cup Draw Takes Place On Friday Afternoon
|Southampton v Aston Villa Odds Saints can get back to winning ways at St Marys|
Southampton Have Lost Their Last Two Games
|Luis Suarez heads the first scorer betting for Liverpool v Norwich|
Suarez Has Scored 7 In 3 Against Norwich
|Stoke v Cardiff Odds Premier League strugglers meet at the Britannia|
Potters Marginal Favourites Against Cardiff
|Sunderland v Chelsea Odds Fernando Torres can fire the Blues to victory|
Blues Odds On For Three Points In The North East
|Swansea v Newcastle Betting Magpies bidding for a fifth win in a row|
Newcastle Have Won Their Last Four In The League
|West Brom v Man City Odds Negredo and Aguero Can Secure An Away Victory|
City Hoping To Improve Dodgy Away Record At The Hawthorns
|Crystal Palace v West Ham Odds Match betting points to a low scoring draw at Selhurst Park|
Tony Pulis Takes Charge Of His First Home Game
|Arsenal v Hull Betting Back hosts to win to nil|
League Leaders Hot Favourites At Home
|Man Utd v Everton Odds Moyes and Rooney can mastermind a win against their old club|
Former Toffees Meet Their Old Team At Old Trafford
|Zenit V Liverpool Odds Russian Side Favourites For First Leg Clash|
Liverpool travel to Russia for first match of last 32 tie
|Shakhtar V Borussia Dortmund Odds Back A Score Draw In The First Leg Betting|
Nothing to choose between the teams in the match odds
|Real Madrid V Man Utd Odds Cristiano Ronaldo Hot Favourite In The First Scorer Betting|
Real odds on for first leg at the Bernabeu
|Celtic V Juventus Odds Back A Draw In The Parkhead Betting|
Juventus odds on to qualify for quarter finals
|Leicester V Huddersfield Odds Foxes Favourites For Fourth Round Replay|
Anthony Knockeart looks a tempting first scorer bet
|Australia V England 2nd Test Betting Hosts Hold The Edge At The Adelaide Oval|
England Bid To Level The Series After Dismal Gabba Defeat
|Miguel Angel Jimenez Handed Short Odds In His Quest For A Fourth Hong Kong Open Crown|
Three Time Winner Heads The Betting Market
|Nedbank Golf Challenge Betting Henrik Stenson Is A Red Hot Favourite In South Africa|
Charl Schwartzel Can Continue His Fine Run Of Form
|Northwestern Mutual World Challenge Odds Tiger Woods Heads The Betting|
Small But Select Field Tee Off In California
|2014 World Cup Draw Preview England Sweat On Draw After FIFA Confirms Seedings|
World Cup Draw Takes Place On Friday Afternoon
BRAND NEW £250 free bet offer.
Open Account - Free £250 Bets With Paddypower
Ladbrokes are one of the highest rated online bookmakers in the UK and are a superb choice for placing your bets. You can claim a £30 free bet when opening a new account with Ladbrokes by clicking on one of the links on this site.
Once you've had your free bet Ladbrokes will credit your account with a £30 free bet.
Open Account - £30 Free Bet - Ladbrokes
The UK based bookmaker Betfred is now offering up to £25 in free bets for new clients on their site.
Open Account - Free £25 Bets With Betfred
BetVictor is offering £100 in free bets to all new clients.
Open Account - Open Account - Free £100 Bets With BetVictor
Those looking for some online casino entertainment ought to check out all the latest UK Casino Sign Up offers from the top operators including 32Red and many of the sports betting casinos.
There is excellent information, should you be interested in playing online blackjack, roulette, the best progressives or slots - Online Casino Betting with the best introductory offers