Chelsea host Slavia Prague at Stamford Bridge this evening looking to book their place in the next round of the Europa League.
While a top-four finish remains the priority for Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea, the Europa League offers a viable route back into the Champions League.
With a 1-0 lead from the first leg, the Blues will be confident of booking their place in the semi-finals.
And with a meeting against Benfica or Eintracht Frankfurt already confirmed, Europe’s second-tier competition should now be something they are looking at seriously. Their performance against Slavia will determine if that is the case.
Maurizio Sarri has rotated for the Europa League this season, and that is likely to remain the case in this game.
It remains to be seen if Eden Hazard will start, with the Italian leaving him on the bench for the first leg after admitting the Belgian was suffering from tiredness.
One player who will be missing is Antonio Rudiger. The German limped out of the defeat to Liverpool at the weekend and is missing with a knee injury.
Slavia, meanwhile, have a full squad to pick from with the return of crucial midfielder Tomas Soucek a particular boost.
What the managers said
Maurizio Sarri was missing from the pre-match presser this week, having had dental surgery. Assistant Gianfranco Zola took his place, and his focus was on who would start in defence in place of the injured Rudiger.
“It looks not as bad as we thought. He is a strong boy and should be back earlier,” he said.
“He is an important player for us. I saw him improving in many ways, the way he is on the ball and the way he is defending. We alternate the defenders many times when Christensen plays with Luiz he has done well.
“He will be missed, but the ones that are playing have done well.”
Slavia Prague boss Jindrich Trpisovsky, meanwhile, says he hopes Eden Hazard starts the game against his team.
“I think currently he’s the best player in the world,” said Trpisovsky. “And I’d love for him to play tomorrow.”
He added: “Because if he plays tomorrow, that means Chelsea take us seriously.
“And if we win tomorrow, we would beat the best Chelsea, and we would be respected. So we hope the best players will be here tomorrow.”
The stats favour Chelsea here. Slavia Prague are winless in their last eight games against English opposition.
Slavia Prague have overturned a first-leg deficit on four of the 12 occasions this has occurred in major European competition, although they have exited the competition on all four times they’ve lost the first leg at home.
Chelsea have won ten of their 11 games in Europe this season. No English team has ever won 11 games in a single European campaign.
In fact, the Blues have won 13 of their last 14 games in this competition and kept a clean sheet in six of their previous eight.
Expect Willian to play a vital role. He has provided seven Europa League assists for Chelsea this season, the joint-most in the competition along with Bate’s Igor Stasevich.