Europa League – Slavia Prague v Chelsea – Quarterfinal Round
It’s time for the Europa League quarterfinals, with the first leg kicking off around Europe on 11 April at 3:00pm EST (8:00pm GMT). We covered the draw after it happened last month, and we’ll be taking a look at all four matchups this week.
Up next, we’re going to take a look at the matchup between Czech club Slavia Prague playing hosts to England’s Chelsea. Their leg one match kicks off from Sinobo Stadium in Prague, Czech Republic on Thursday, 11 April at 9:00pm GMT (3:00pm EST).
What Happened in the Round of 16
After a surprising 2-2 draw in Seville against Sevilla in leg one, Slavia Prague still faced pretty long odds of advancing heading into leg two. With two away goals in their pocket, they had an advantage… at least until Sevilla drew even at 2-2 in leg two in the 54th minute. The game finished regular time with that score, and Sevilla scored first in extra time, seemingly clinching their spot in the quarters. But the Czechs didn’t quit, scoring two late goals to win leg two 4-3 and advance 6-5 on aggregate.
Chelsea, on the other hand, had little issue in the Round of 16, thoroughly thrashing Dynamo Kyiv in both legs. After winning 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in leg one, they went to Kiev and thoroughly humiliated the Ukrainian club, winning 5-0 in leg two behind a hat trick by Olivier Giroud. The 8-0 aggregate score was one of the largest in recent memory, and truly cemented the Blues as Europa League favorites.
Back Home in League Play
After a second place finish in the Czech First League last season, Slavia Prague remains near the top of the table, and are currently in first place with three matches before the new championship group begins. They have lost only three league games all season, and currently boast a +49 goal differential thanks to their league leading offense (69 goals scored) and defense (20 goals allowed).
Chelsea is also hoping to improve on last season’s league performance, a fifth place finish that was five points behind Liverpool for the final Champions League spot. They are currently in 3rd place, and – after a 2-0 victory against West Ham United – they have secured at least a spot in Europa League next season. Barring a massive collapse from the teams above them, they are unlikely to win the Premier League this season, but a favorable schedule down the stretch should help as they seek the more lucrative Champions League berth.
What the Experts are Saying
Chelsea is the overwhelming favorite to win this matchup; they couldn’t have hoped for a better draw. FiveThirtyEight probabilities places them at 95% to make the semifinals, and a overall 35% chance of winning the entire tournament (which would be another path to next season’s Champions League). Between the weakness of their competition (sorry Slavia Prague) and hosting leg two, it would be one of the largest upsets in European competition (at least this season) if they weren’t in the next round.
What We’re Thinking
As recently as last round, Slavia Prague overcame a much stronger team to claim victory in the Europa League. But Sevilla underestimated the plucky Czech squad, a mistake I don’t expect Chelsea to make in this matchup. I suspect we’ll see a repeat of Chelsea’s last round – a dominating performance in leg one (even on the road) and a coasting victory in leg two. Prague’s best chance is to force a draw in leg one and hope for the same underestimation heading into leg two… which doesn’t seem likely. There’s always next season for the Czechs.
Until next time…