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Europa League Preview: Chelsea v Basel

Chelsea can secure a spot in their second European final in two seasons on Thursday if they can hold off Basel at Stamford Bridge.

Rafael Benitez’s team are already in the box seat to progress to the May 15 final at the Amsterdam Arena after securing a 2-1 victory in the first leg in Basel last week, and a positive result at home will set up a final meeting with either Fenerbahce or Benfica.

The thought of competing for and ultimately winning the UEFA Europa League would not have been at the forefront of many Chelsea supporters’ minds last year when they embarked on the defence of their first UEFA Champions League crown.

But with their indifferent league form and a 3-0 loss to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League – from which they were eliminated at the first hurdle – costing former boss Roberto Di Matteo his job, the UEFA Europa League is the club’s last hope for silverware after a disappointing campaign.

Benitez’s first priority, however, will be securing UEFA Champions League football for next term.

With league games to come in the next three weeks against Manchester United, Spurs, Aston Villa and Everton, plus Arsenal and Spurs breathing down their necks for a top-four finish in the Premier League, most of the Spaniard’s energies will be focused in that direction.

But the UEFA Europa League is still a fair consolation prize, and Chelsea’s form since entering the knock-out stages in February has been strong.

They have accounted for Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan on their way to the semi-final tussle with Basel.

The Swiss team, meanwhile, defeated Ukrainian outfit Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Zenit St Petersburg and Spurs to make the last four, and they will be desperate to overturn the first-leg deficit as they attempt to win their first continental trophy.

The will be looking for Marco Streller to get his name on the scoresheet, with the 31-year-old leading their goal charts in both the Swiss Super League with 14 goals, and the UEFA Europa League with four.

Tue 30 Apr, 2013
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