Chelsea welcome Malmo to Stamford Bridge in the Europa League on Thursday with the pressure mounting on Maurizio Sarri ahead of this weekend’s EFL Cup final.

In last week’s first leg, the Blues took a 2-1 lead in Sweden thanks to goals from Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud, but the hosts pulled one back through Anders Christiansen to make Chelsea’s second leg task slightly more difficult.

Anything but progression to the round-of-16 could spell danger for Sarri, who is reportedly trying the patience of the Chelsea board.

Read on for Chelsea vs Malmo live stream options, team news, predicted XIs, stats and TV channel info.

When is Chelsea vs Malmo?

Competition: Europa League

Venue: Stamford Bridge

Date: Thursday, 21 February

Kick-off: 8.00 PM GMT

Match preview

The Europa League has offered Chelsea respite from their dreadful run of domestic form, which only got worse with a 2-0 FA Cup home defeat to Manchester United on Monday, not long after the disastrous 6-0 humbling at Manchester City.

Providing Sarri keeps his job amid the current pressure he finds himself under, winning the Europa League could ensure he is still Chelsea boss next season. Missing out on the top four in the Premier League would be a failure, but it wouldn’t matter if Chelsea can qualify for the Champions League via an alternate route – a route that would bring silverware, too.

There is a feeling Sarri simply must win here. Progression will be enough, but failing to win in 90 minutes after Monday’s defeat to Manchester United in front of an expectant, increasingly frustrated home crowd won’t do the Italian any favours.

The Chelsea board is said to be running out of patience, and if results don’t pick up quickly – starting against Malmo – the hunt for a yet another new manager could begin sooner rather than later.

Where can I watch live?

UK residents can watch Chelsea vs Malmo on BT Sport 2, channel number 414 for Sky TV customers, 528 for Virgin Media customers and 431 on BT TV.

BT Sport subscribers can also watch the game online at sport.bt.com and via their BT Sport app

What do Chelsea need to progress?

A draw of any kind will suffice for Chelsea after last week’s 2-1 victory in the first leg. The Londoners can also afford to lose 1-0 and would still progress on away goals.

If Malmo win 2-1 in 90 minutes, the tie will go to extra-time and potentially penalties. Chelsea won their last penalty shootout, overcoming Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in the EFL Cup semi-finals last month.

Chelsea are yet to lose in Europe this season and shouldn’t have too many problems beating Malmo again, although they will be reassured by the fact a draw is enough.

Where has it gone wrong for Sarri?

A number of factors have led to Sarri’s downfall at Chelsea. The former Napoli manager has been criticised for a lack of plan B in his system, making the Blues predictable in recent matches.

As a result of his stubbornness, N’Golo Kante is still playing slightly out of position. It’s not that Kante has played poorly in his more advanced role, but Jorginho has struggled in big games in the holding role and could do with more support from Kante.

What’s more, Sarri didn’t have the striker he wanted until January. Alvaro Morata was shipped out on loan and Gonzalo Higuain arrived from Juventus. The Argentinian scored twice against Huddersfield Town but drew blanks against Bournemouth, Manchester City and Manchester United.

A lack of rotation and showing too much loyalty towards the likes of Jorginho and Marcos Alonso have also been used as sticks to beat Sarri with.

What is Sarri’s favourite substitution?

Sarri very rarely changes his system, but he does make plenty of like-for-like substitutions during matches – yet another aspect of his philosophy that has been condemned by his critics.

As picked up on by HLN journalist Kristof Terreur, Sarri has made 124 substitutions so far this season, the most common of which being Ross Barkley on and Mateo Kovacic off; the aim being to add a bit more attacking threat in midfield.

Willian has been taken off by Sarri more than any other player. The Brazilian has been substituted 22 times, which suggests he isn’t making the required impact to start games regularly.

Sarri must start being more brave with his changes, altering the system rather than merely the personnel.

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Head-to-head

The first leg was the first ever meeting between the clubs, so Chelsea boast a 100 per cent record in his fixture.

Chelsea wins: 1 Draws: Malmo wins: 0

Team news

Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns. Ruben Loftus-Cheek wasn’t quite ready to return from injury against Manchester United, but he should be fit enough for a place on the bench on Thursday night.

Hazard and Higuain could be rested for the EFL Cup final, while Sarri may go with Barkley over Kovacic from the beginning.

Predicted Chelsea XI: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Jorginho; Kante, Barkley; Willian, Giroud, Pedro.

Predicted Malmo XI: Dahlin; Vindheim, Nielsen, Bengtsson, Safari, Rieks; Christiansen, Bachirou, Traustason; Antonsson, Rosenberg.

Predictions & Betting Tips

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1. Chelsea to Win to Nil @ 10/11

Chelsea are yet to lose in the Europa League this season, winning six and drawing one of their seven games.

Moreover, they have kept a clean sheet in four of those matches and conceded just one goal at Stamford Bridge in the group stages.

Sarri will be eager to shut up shop on Thursday after failing to keep things tight at the back in recent weeks.

Key Stat: Chelsea have kept four clean sheets across all competitions in 2019 so far.

Tip: Chelsea to Win to Nil @ 10/11 with BetBull – bet here

Odds correct at time of publishing (20/02/2019, 16:30)

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2. Chelsea Over 2.5 goals @ 11/10

It could be a cagey affair at Stamford Bridge given the importance of a result for Sarri, but that shouldn’t stop Chelsea overpowering Malmo.

The Blues have had no problems against lesser opposition at Stamford Bridge in recent outings, beating Huddersfield 5-0 and recording simple victories over Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.

If they can score early, Chelsea should go on to bag at least three goals and gain some much need confidence ahead of the weekend.

Key Stat: Prior to the defeat to Manchester United, Chelsea had scored at least twice in their last five home games in all competitions.

Tip: Chelsea Over 2.5 goals @ 11/10 with BetBull – bet here

Odds correct at time of publishing (20/02/2019, 16:30)

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3. Olivier Giroud to score anytime @ 4/5

Sarri may want to rest key players for Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Manchester City, and Gonzalo Higuain could be one of the stars to sit this one out.

That means Olivier Giroud will almost certainly start. The Frenchman was on the scoresheet in the first leg and will be confident of finding the net again.

For that to happen, though, Sarri will have to master the balance between keeping Malmo out and posing an attacking threat, something Chelsea have struggled with of late.

Key Stat: Giroud has scored five goals in six Europa League appearances this term.

Tip: Giroud to score anytime @ 4/5 with BetBull – bet here

Odds correct at time of publishing (20/02/2019, 16:30)

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