The European Champions travel to Switzerland for their Europa League semi-final first leg against FC Basel. Although much has been said about Chelsea’s retrograde step over the course of the past 12 months, Rafael Benitez will be desperate to put some form of silverware in the trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge, and the Europa League remains his final opportunity to do so.
Both sides started their respective European campaigns in the Champions League, but after failing to qualify for the knockout stages, instead placing third in their groups, they entered the Europa League at the round of 32.
Basel will be looking to defeat English opposition for the second time in as many rounds, after they put paid to Tottenham’s Europa League campaign earlier this month. But the Blues will prove tough opposition for the Swiss champions, as the Londoners attempt to become the first team to win both of UEFA’s leading club competitions in reverse order across successive seasons.
Ashley Cole has returned to the Chelsea squad, following a hamstring injury sustained at the beginning of April, while the home side are without Alex Frei, who has retired since Basel’s quarter-final exploits. The game marks the sides’ first competitive meeting.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 8.05pm
Basel are the only reigning domestic league champions left in the competition.
Benítez (Valencia 2004) is the only coach left in the competition who has won the trophy previously.
Fernando Torres has scored four goals in his last three Europa League appearances.
Petr Čech and Torres are the only players to have played every minute of Chelsea's UEFA Europa League campaign.
FC Basel to win: 2.8
Chelsea to win: 2.37
TV: Live on ITV 1 at 8.05pm.
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