What: Europa League Semi-final Second leg
Who: Chelsea (2) vs Basel (1) (First leg score in brackets)
When: Thursday 2nd May, 2013, at 20:05 UK Time
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Basel last week thanks to David Luiz’s last-gasp winner gives the English club a big edge as they return home for the second leg. Rafael Benitez’s men put together a solid performance in Switzerland and though they won it so late were the better team on the night. Chelsea will be confident of finishing the job at Stamford Bridge where they are unbeaten in Europe this season.
After a 2-0 defeat of Swansea at the weekend, not only do the Blues find themselves in good form, but they are also on track to accomplish their two remaining goals of qualifying for the Champions League and winning the Europa League. After starting the season with the chance to win seven competitions, Chelsea have come down with the opportunity to hoover up silverware in the eighth try as participation in the Europa League only came about with a Champions League group stage exit.
Though fans haven’t seemed to accept Benitez, even as an interim manager, the focus has rightly shifted to supporting the club in achieving their targets so as to ensure this season ends on the right note with a degree of success.
No Fear In England
Basel meanwhile will be ruing a missed opportunity at St. Jakob Park last Thursday. Chelsea may have had the better of proceedings, however a late push by the home side saw them equalise through a rather dubious penalty decision. Taking a 1-1 scoreline back to England would have been ideal and not as damaging psychologically as the eventual 2-1 defeat.
But as Phillipp Degen stated, the players still believe. “We will have our chances in London – we have nothing to lose there”, said the defender after the first leg loss. Surely the club’s previous trip to London, in the last round against Tottenham, will provide some much-needed inspiration for the tall task ahead. It was then in the first leg quarter-final where Basel raced out to a 2-0 lead before finally succumbing to a 2-2 draw. The two goals scored that night will provide supporters with hope that the team can do the trick again.
The odds are stacked against Basel, especially after a 3-0 home defeat in the Swiss Super League against Lucerne on Sunday showed they are perhaps not in the best form. That said, this is a team that have played the role of giant-killers in the last two seasons and will have the mindset that they have nothing to lose indeed at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea (21/04; Premier League)
Basel 1-1 Chelsea (25/04; Europa League)
Chelsea 2-0 Swansea (28/04; Premier League)
FC Thun 2-2 Basel (21/04; Swiss Super League)
Basel 1-2 Chelsea (25/04; Europa League)
Basel 0-3 Lucerne (28/04; Swiss Super League)
Chelsea: Ashley Cole (suspended)
Players to watch
Chelsea – Victor Moses: The 22-year-old offers Chelsea something of an X-factor from the flanks as he showed with his performance against Basel in the first leg which included a goal, albeit a fortuitous one. The pacy winger is a solid player in one-on-one situations and has knack of getting into the box and scoring goals. He has had a superb season to date with nine goals in all competitions, including four strikes in the Europa League. It is a decent return for a player who has mostly been used as substitute in his first season with Chelsea. Moses led Nigeria to a victory in the January’s African Cup of Nations and could be a vital cog in Chelsea’s bid for Europa League silverware.
Basel – Marco Streller: The tall Swiss striker remains his side’s best attacking threat even as he approaches the tail end of his career. Basel will need his hold-up play and nose in front of goal to score at Stamford Bridge. Streller has had a checkered career with the Swiss national team, including injury setbacks and rifts with supporters that saw him eventually back out of the team on the eve of Euro 2008. With Basel however he has always felt welcome and recently signed a contract extension until June 2015. With nearly 120 goals in two different stints with the club, Streller’s status as Basel great has already been confirmed.
No one can doubt the spirit of Basel and Chelsea can expect a dogfight at Stamford Bridge from Murat Yakin’s side. All involved with Basel will have belief that they can grab the goals they need. After all, this is the same side that so very recently scored twice in London against Tottenham in the previous round.
For Chelsea, they enjoy a fine advantage from the first leg and now it is really just a matter of seeing out the contest. Surely, the Blues won’t want to overlook their semi-final counterparts, however if they play to their abilities a place in the Europa League final will certainly be theirs. Chelsea 2-1 Basel.
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