Chelsea v Benfica Europa Final
Chelsea remain on course to become the first ever club to win UEFA’s top competitions in reverse order (the European Cup then the UEFA Cup) as they moved through to the final of this season’s Europa League. So the Blues are Amsterdam bound for Wednesday, May 15th and there they will come up against the exciting attacking talents of Portuguese side Benfica, with their front line being led by the dangerous Oscar Cardozo. Also at stake for Chelsea in the final will be the honour of joining the elite few clubs who have won all of UEFA’s top honours, the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, the UEFA Cup/Europa League and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. If Chelsea win in Amsterdam, the will join Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich in achieving the feat.
The Premier League side will start as favourites in the final of the Europa League for many, but will they be able to deliver? It may not be as straightforward as many will be thinking for Rafa Benitez’s men, who go as favourites at odds of 7/5 with Benfica out at 2/1.
Chelsea booked their place in the final with a semi final victory over the gutsy FC Basel from Switzerland. The Swiss side had already eliminated Tottenham in the quarter finals and with their pacy attacking down the flanks, caused Chelsea some problems. But the extra quality which Chelsea could call upon was telling at the end of the day in the second leg back at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea took a 5-2 win on aggregate against the Swiss side, as they progressed to what will be the fourth ever UEFA Europa League final. While Chelsea’s performances in Europe in general this season have been lacklustre and shaky at times, they have ridden their luck and produced the goals necessary to make it to the final.
It will be some great consolation for the London side after failing miserably in the defence of their Champions League crown by crashing out of the group stage in disappointing fashion. Their Europa League final opponents Benfica also joined up with this season’s Europa League after failing to progress from their Champions League group. On their way to the finals, they won four and lost one of their six matches. Their semi final match against the defensively sound Turkish side Fenerbache, saw the Portuguese side do enough in the return leg to overturn a one goal deficit, winning out 3-2 on aggregate as the challenge of the Turks ran out of steam. Between themselves and Chelsea, Benfica have a greater history in European finals, this being their ninth compared to Chelsea’s fifth.
Benfica have converted just twice in their previous eight European finals, losing the last six in a row. Chelsea have struck three wins in their four European finals, the only loss coming in a penalty shoot out in the 2007/08 Champions League final against Manchester United.
The two sides came together for the first time in the Champions League last season, meeting in the quarter finals. Chelsea took a 2-1 home win at the Bridge after snatching a win out in Lisbon.
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