Chelsea will be flying the flag for England when they go away to Basel in their UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday.
English Premier League teams Tottenham and Newcastle United both bowed out at the quarter-final stage, leaving Chelsea as the country’s sole representative in the last four.
Chelsea were not entirely convincing as they advanced to the semi-finals courtesy of a 5-4 aggregate win over Russia’s Rubin Kazan.
With Chelsea out of contention in the Premier League, UEFA’s second-tier competition is their only chance to claim silverware this season.
And if Rafael Benitez’s men overcome the Swiss champions, last season’s UEFA Champions League winners would be on track to become the first team to claim UEFA’s two club tournaments, in reverse order, in successive seasons.
However, Chelsea will need to get past a Basel outfit that have continued to impress this term.
Basel edged Tottenham 4-1 on penalties to reach the semi-finals and if they manage to book a trip to the final in Amsterdam, they would become the first Swiss team to advance to a UEFA club tournament final.
Murat Yakin’s troops are the only reigning domestic champions left in the competition.
Basel have not tasted defeat on home soil in the UEFA Europa League this season and will be buoyed by the fact that Chelsea have lost their last two away fixtures in Europe.
Thursday’s encounter will be the first meeting between the two clubs but Chelsea have faced Swiss opposition before, losing 2-1 on aggregate to St. Gallen in the first round of the 2000/01 UEFA Cup.
As for Basel, they’ve played English opposition on 18 occasions – winning three of those and losing eight.
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