sport

Cech keeps focus on Chelsea

Petr Cech acknowledges Chelsea did not want to end up in the Europa League but says the club now has a chance to make history.

There is no sense of embarrassment for Chelsea goalkeeper Cech as he prepares to make a first club return to the Czech Republic since leaving Sparta Prague with his first appearance in the Europa League.

The 30-year-old arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004 for 7million from Rennes, having moved to France from Sparta Prague, Thursday evening's opponents in the last-32 first-leg clash.

Cech won the Champions League last May and many will consider his return home in the perceived lesser continental competition to be a downward step. He does not.

"It's not great that we're playing in the Europa League - we didn't want to do that - but we are now involved and we have the chance to win a competition the club has never won," Cech said.

"We can play in the Super Cup and we can become one of the (few) teams who have won every competition. It is an opportunity to make history although it is history-making in a different way."

Only Ajax, Juventus and Bayern Munich have won all the major UEFA competitions - the European Cup/Champions League, the UEFA Cup/Europa League and the Cup Winners' Cup - and Chelsea could join them with victory in the Europa League.

Cech wants the chance to make amends for the Atletico Madrid loss in the European Super Cup last August - "we didn't turn up," Cech said - with victory in the Europa League the requirement to qualify for the one-off fixture.

The goalkeeper admits to feeling envious as the Champions League last-16 fixtures began this week, but insists that his focus is on Thursday night success.

"You know you should be there but you're not - and it is our own mistake," he said.

"We have to play in the other competition but I don't see it as something bad.

"I've never played Europa League so this is my first ever start in the Europa League, if I play."

The last time Cech was an away player at the Generali Arena was with his first club Blsany, from his native Plzen.

"Since I left Sparta Prague in 2002, I have never had a chance to play a Czech team in any competition, not even a friendly," Cech said.

"It's going to be a special moment. I am always going there to play for the national team but then I'm in the home dressing room.

"This time, I will feel at home because I know the stadium very well but I will be a visitor, which will be a strange moment."

Cech, who played for Sparta against the giants of Europe, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, recognises the hosts, who have not played a competitive fixture since early December, will relish the opportunity of playing against the Blues.

"It was our chance to show we could get a contract at a big club," Cech said. "It will be the same for the Sparta players now. "This is the danger. The players are coming from pre-season (the winter break) and hungry to play proper games. "They have been working hard, they will be highly motivated and they have nothing to lose. This is the danger for me."

Another issue for Cech is the broken little finger on his left hand.

He has been trying to protect it since suffering the injury clearing a cross and, simultaneously, punching the back of team-mate Gary Cahill's head against Newcastle earlier this month.

Cech withdrew from the Czech Republic's friendly with Turkey, but returned to action in last Saturday's 4-1 defeat of Wigan.

"I have managed to play with broken shoulders, nose and head and everything, so a little finger cannot stop me," Cech added.