With Chelsea heading to the Czech capital of Prague in the Europa League, there are two players who draw many parallels with each other. Despite playing on opposite sides of Europe, in January of this year both the Blues and Sparta Prague brought in new strikers to help bolster their firepower.
On the third of the month, Chelsea activated a £7 million release clause in Demba Ba’s contract and the Senegalese hit-man signed a three-and-a-half-year contract at Stamford Bridge. A little over a week later, Sparta recruited 31-year-old David Lafata from rivals FK Jablonec.
So which of the two forwards is going to be the most influential for their new club on Thursday?
The Czech international is four years Ba’s senior, but has also arguably been a more consistent goal-scorer in recent times. The striker has 13 league goals in just 16 appearances so far this season.
This is no fluke for Lafata, as he has been the top-scorer in the Czech Republic’s highest division for the past two seasons. Last term the forward managed 25 goals in the league, showing Chelsea’s defence cannot take Lafata lightly.
Although the striker earned his first international cap seven years ago, he has since gone on to only make 25 appearances for the Czech squad. This has produced the fairly modest total of six goals for his country – though this has included three strikes in his last two matches.
The former Newcastle striker will be more familiar to Premier League fans, but do his statistics match up to Lafata’s impressive recent form?
Ba has scored three goals for Chelsea in nine outings, since his arrival from St James’ Park. This is a far from remarkable total, although the potency he has at the top level is shown by the 29 Premier League goals he scored in 44 appearances for the Magpies previously.
The fact that the 27-year-old arrived in the North East on a free transfer from West Ham, led the Daily Mail to rank him in the ‘Top 10′ best signings of last season.
His performances at Newcastle were slightly overshadowed last campaign after the introduction of Papiss Cisse. But it was Ba who once again took up the goal-scoring baton this term and earned a move to West London. He may not have found the same form for the Blues as yet, but it’s obvious it is brewing.
Lafata is probably more heavily relied on by Sparta than Ba is by Chelsea, but make no mistake, it will be a close call tonight to decide who is the most important January mover.