Sparta Praha vs. Chelsea  0 - 1

Article

Benitez rues missed chances

15 February 2013 01:08

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has urged his side to be more clinical after their 1-0 win over Sparta Prague on Thursday.

Oscar rescued Chelsea with an 82nd-minute goal as they dominated the first leg of their round-of-32 Europa League tie in the Czech Republic.

Benitez lamented his side's wastefulness in front of goal, but was pleased with their ability to create chances on the road.

"Eighteen attempts away is not bad, but we have to be more clinical in attack," he said.

"The first 20 minutes we were in control. We had some half-chances – it was a cross, we weren't there. We were in control.

"After this 20 minutes they were pushing and pushing. The team, as a team, had problems defending.

"We changed a little bit in the second half. I think the concentration of the team was much better, the intensity in defence was much better and then we had more control."

Benitez also backed Fernando Torres, who has scored just once in his past 13 games, and wants his side to press home their dominance in the return leg at Stamford Bridge.

"We have to create more opportunities and the strikers will score more goals," Benitez said.

"His work rate was really good and thanks to him the rest of the team, especially the second line of offensive players, they could create.

"His job was to push and run and keep their defenders deep so he could create space for the other players.

"Everybody expects from a striker just to score goals, but he's doing also a great job for the team.

"We have scored the away goal and we have to finish the job at home. We know it will not be easy.

"That is the competition that we have to play now. It's a European competition and they (the players) have to realise it's an opportunity to win a trophy.

"I'm sure if we can progress they will see the option and hopefully we can keep the team playing well and winning games, until the end."

Article

Cech targeting Europa League success

14 February 2013 11:04

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is desperate for Europa League success ahead of their last-32 first-leg against Sparta Prague on Thursday.

Chelsea became the first-ever European champions to be demoted from the Champions League to the second-tier competition following a poor group stage outing in the first half of the season.

And Cech revealed that success in the Europa League is a top priority for his team.

"We are in the Europa League and need to concentrate on what we can do," Cech told The Independent. "We can make ourselves happy by going far in the Europa League.

"If we win it, we can also qualify again for the UEFA Super Cup – we missed out on it earlier this season and that was a big disappointment for us.

"The Europa League is a competition you really have to respect."

Article

Benitez committed to Europa League

13 February 2013 02:40

Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez insists that his side's Europa League campaign will not impact negatively on their domestic form.

The Blues take on Sparta Prague on Thursday evening in the last 32 of Europe's second-tier competition, having dropped into the tournament as a result of an unsuccessful defence of their Champions League title.

But despite the west London club's recent poor league form meaning their place in the top four is far from assured, Benitez says that he will take the competition seriously.

"In terms of flights and games it's like the Champions League. In terms of mentality the first thought is, 'hmm, it's different'," he said.

"But if you look at the teams in the Europa League you will see that it could be quite difficult. We have to start thinking about it as a great competition with good teams and that we want to do our best.

"Thursday-Sunday is fine, because in the Champions League it was sometimes Wednesday-Saturday. The most important thing is in the players' heads.

"In England there is a tradition of playing on Saturday. But in Spain I won the UEFA Cup with Valencia playing on Thursday and Sunday, which was just the same. We can manage if we have enough bodies.

"I expect them to be focused and to concentrate, they will realise that it's Europe and they must give 100 percent."

Czech Liga table

# Team MP D P
1 24 +44 64
2 24 +36 54
3 25 +23 46
4 25 -5 41
5 24 +17 39

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 34 +51 77
2 35 +41 75
3 33 +54 71
4 34 +18 67
5 34 +21 66