AC Sparta Praha again meet English opposition in the round of 32, hoping for improved fortunes against UEFA Champions League holders Chelsea FC, who have never won this competition.
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AC Sparta Praha could welcome a famous old boy home as they take on European champions Chelsea FC in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
• Sparta and Chelsea have met before, having been pooled together in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League group stage. Claudio Ranieri's Blues beat a Sparta side coached by Jiří Kotrba 1-0 in Prague on matchday one, with the matchday five return fixture at Stamford Bridge ending 0-0. Chelsea finished top of Group G, with Sparta ending up second.
• The teams for their first meeting in Prague on 16 September 2003 were:
Sparta: Blažek, Labant (Ježek 87), Poborský, Michalík (Zbončák 56), Kováč, Hübschman, Johana, Petráš (Sionko 46), Němec, Jun, Gluščević.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Johnson, Makelele, Desailly, Mutu (Duff 46), Gallas, Geremi, Petit (Lampard* 46), Bridge, Verón, Crespo (Hasselbaink 72).
• The teams for the return fixture on 26 November 2003 were:
Chelsea: Cudicini, Makelele, Mutu, Lampard*, Cole (Geremi 73), Duff, Gallas, Melchiot, Bridge, Crespo (Gudjohnsen 73), Terry*.
Sparta: Blažek, Labant, Pergl, Zelenka (Flachbart 87), Poborský, Michalík (Gluščević 73), Krmaš, Sionko (Ježek 90+3), Kováč, Hübschman, Homola.
* still registered to play for the club
• Sparta are unbeaten in five European games – two wins followed by three draws. They are unbeaten in 11 European home games (W6 D5) since a 2-0 defeat by MŠK Žilina in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League play-offs.
• Group I runners-up Sparta last reached the round of 32 in 2010/11, losing 1-0 on aggregate to Liverpool FC. Their best season in this competition saw them reach the quarter-finals in 1983/84, bowing out to HNK Hajduk Split.
• Chelsea are making their debut in the UEFA Europa League. They have played fewer games in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League than any of the other sides in the round of 32, barring European debutants Levante UD – both sides have played eight games each.
• Chelsea have yet to lose a home game in this competition in four attempts, boasting the record W3 D1 L0 in UEFA Cup games at Stamford Bridge.
• Remarkably, Chelsea bowed out of this season's UEFA Champions League despite being the highest scoring side in the group stage with 16 goals. Of the sides in the round of 32, only FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk can match that total this season.
• Chelsea have won only one of their previous four two-legged ties in this competition, beating PFC Levski Sofia in the 2001/02 first round. They last played in the UEFA Cup the following season, when they were beaten by Viking FK in the first round. Frank Lampard and John Terry both featured (and scored) in their last UEFA Cup game – a 4-2 defeat in Stavanger.
• Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech played for Sparta in 2001/02. During the season when Chelsea and Sparta last met, Čech was at Stade Rennais FC. He would join Chelsea in the summer of 2004. He is not related to Sparta goalkeeper Marek Čech.
• Sparta midfielder Jiří Jarošík played for Chelsea for the second half of the 2004/05 season, winning the League Cup and the title with the club. He was loaned to Birmingham City FC for the following campaign and moved on to Celtic FC that summer.
• Sparta are within three goals of their 100th in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League – this is their 71st game in the two competitions.
• Chelsea could become the first side to win UEFA's two top club competitions in reverse order in successive seasons.
• They could also become only the fourth side to have won all three of UEFA's major club competitions (after Juventus, AFC Ajax and FC Bayern München), having won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup twice (in 1970/71 and 1997/98) and the UEFA Champions League last season.
• Chelsea are within three goals of their 300th in UEFA club competition, but the next one they let past them will be the 150th they have conceded – this is their 174th UEFA game.
• Vitězslav Lavička represented Sparta in three spells as a midfielder in the 1980s and 1990s, and is now in his second term as the club's coach, following a spell in charge in 2008. Once coach of the Czech Under-21 side, he won the Australian title with Sydney FC in 2009/10 before returning to Prague in 2012.
• Rafael Benítez moved into coaching young after injury ended his career as a midfielder, taking charge of youth and reserve teams at Real Madrid CF. He led Valencia CF to two league titles and the 2003/04 UEFA Cup, and then won the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League with Liverpool FC. He coached FC Internazionale Milano briefly in 2010/11, replacing Roberto Di Matteo as Chelsea boss in November 2012.
• Benítez's most recent UEFA Europa League experience came in 2009/10, when he led Liverpool to the semi-finals, where they lost out to eventual winners Club Atlético de Madrid.
Round of 16: AFC Ajax/FC Steaua Bucureşti v Sparta/Chelsea
• The first legs will be played on 7 March, with the returns the following Thursday.
• Sparta have met both of their potential opponents before.
• Steaua came out on top when the teams met in the first round of the 1988/89 European Champion Clubs' Cup, winning 5-1 in Prague before playing out a 2-2 draw in Bucharest.
• Sparta and Ajax have met three times before. In the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage, they drew 1-1 in Prague with Ajax prevailing 2-1 in Amsterdam, while a 2006/07 UEFA Cup group stage meeting ended goalless.