Chelsea will look to complete the job they started in the Czech Republic last week when they take on Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday night (ESPN, 8.05pm). The Blues secured a 1-0 win in the first leg of this last-32 tie last Thursday and they are odds on to come through this second match unscathed and secure their place in the last-16, where Ajax or Steaua Bucharest will lie in wait.
Rafa Benitez's side go into this game as 1/3 odds on favourites with Coral, who price Sparta 10/1 to pick up a shock win and the draw is available at 7/2. Benitez may be tempted to rotate his squad this week and he will definitely have to do without Demba Ba, who is cup-tied, so Fernando Torres is likely to get another chance to impress up front.
Benitez will want to keep his key players fresh for the weekend as they are in Premier League action at Manchester City on Sunday afternoon and there is still plenty at stake in that game too. Chelsea are only four points behind second place City in the league but first they must get through this European tie.
They go into the game on a decent run of form as a four-match winless run has been followed by three wins in a row. They've beaten Wigan 4-1, Sparta 1-0 and Brentford 4-0 during the past few weeks and Frank Lampard has been in fine form, scoring five goals in his last six for club and country. Lampard is 11/2 to score first this week, although it may be worth checking Benitez's team selection before lumping on the Englishman.
For a touch more value it could be worth backing Marko Marin at a best price 12/1 with Coral as the classy midfielder looks to make the most of a rare first team start. Marin is likely to be given a chance on Thursday after he scored against Wigan recently and he could prove to be the value pick in the first scorer market.
Chelsea's goals have tended to come late in games recently though as 10 of the last 11 they have scored have come in the second half of games. Coral bookmakers go 13/8 for Chelsea to score over 1.5 goals in the second half on Thursday and that could be worth a look when they come up against a stubborn, but limited, Sparta side.
Sparta, who are currentlty third in the Czech League, qualified for the last-32 of the Europa League courtesy of finishing runners up to Lyon in Group I. They are in the middle of a winter break but they have impressed defensively this season as they have kept four clean sheets in their last six, conceding only two goals.
However, they have struggled for goals as they have failed to score in their last three and David Lafata's wayward finishing proved costly against Chelsea last week. Chelsea are even-money to win to nil again this week and Coral go evens for under 2.5 goals in the match. Sparta's last eight games have all involved less than three goals and Chelsea can secure a routine win on Thursday as they bid to extend their nine-match unbeaten run in European home games.
Chelsea v Sparta Prague Tips
Tip #1: Chelsea to win to nil @ evens with Coral.
Tip #2: Chelsea to score over 1.5 goals in the second half @ 13/8 with Coral.
Tip #3: Marko Marin to score first each-way @ 12/1 with Coral.
Correct Score Odds
11/2 Chelsea 1-0
5/1 Chelsea 2-0
8/1 Chelsea 2-1
12/1 Draw 0-0
9/1 Draw 1-1
25/1 Draw 2-2
25/1 Sparta Prague 1-0
70/1 Sparta Prague 2-0
33/1 Sparta Prague 2-1
First Goalscorer Odds
7/2 Fernando Torres
5/1 Juan Mata
11/2 Frank Lampard
6/1 Eden Hazard
9/1 David Lafata
10/1 Leonard Kweuke
10/1 Roman Bednar
10/1 Vaclav Kadlec
12/1 Marko Marin
12/1 Yossi Benayoun
Odds supplied by Coral.com, who offer live in-play betting for all of the Europa League matches on Thursday night.
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