Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Benfica v Chelsea - Match Preview

Benfica v Chelsea


Date: Wednesday 15th May; Kick-Off: 19:45 GMT
Venue: Amsterdam Arena, Holland

Breaking team news: Benitez rules Eden Hazard out of the game. John Terry's fitness will be assessed tomorrow.

Its going to be a big big night for Chelsea at Amsterdam Arena as we gear up for the Europa League Final against Portuguese opponent Benfica. This final against Benfica will be the penultimate game of our 2012-13 campaign. And a Europa Cup will be a fitting cup glory that Chelsea players can enjoy after some grueling schedule of football fixtures which they had to endure in these last couple of months.

Chelsea have never tasted Europa League glory before and if we win then we will become the first ever team to win back-to-back European competitions (in reverse way), having won the UEFA Champions League last year. Jose Mourinho achieved the same feat when he managed Porto by winning the Europa Cup and then the Champions League in consecutive seasons. Chelsea could also become only the fourth team to lift all three of UEFA's major club trophies, after Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich; the European Cup Winner's Cup in 1970/71 & 1997/98 and the UEFA Champions League last year 2011/12.

Having already secured Champions League qualification for 2013-14 season Chelsea can now breathe easy and focus entirely on their clash against Benfica. A home game against Everton in the weekend will be our last game of the season. It will also mark the last game of the season for Rafa Benitez who will leave after the game at Stamford Bridge.

Benfica v Chelsea - Match Preview

Both Chelsea and Benfica wouldn't have thought of it coming to this when it all started for both teams in the UEFA Champions League this year. But both Chelsea and Benfica were knocked out at the group stages of the competition, Chelsea at the hands of Juve & Shakthar whereas Benfica at the hands of Barcelona & Celtic.

It was not that long time ago since we met Benfica, both teams faced each other in the knockout stage of last years UEFA Champions league. Although Chelsea came out on top and progressed to the semis, it was a hard fought match over the two legs. Chelsea who traveled to Benfica for the first leg, came out on top with a narrow 1-0 win courtesy of a goal by ex- Chelsea man Salomon Kalou.

With that scoreline and the second leg being at Stamford Bridge, it was thought that Chelsea will easily progress without much scare. But it proved to be otherwise, Chelsea did go ahead with a well taken penalty by Lampard but Javi Garcia equalised for Benfica late in the second half to set up a thrilling finish, one more goal and Benfica would have progressed at the expense of Chelsea. But another ex-Chelsea player Raul Meireles scored the winner in stoppage time to take Chelsea into the semi-finals of 2012-13 UEFA Champions League competition.

With Chelsea clearly aware of what problems Benfica can cause, this game again promises to be a close fought affair. And with the Europa Cup at stake it will be more fierce and competitive than the game that took place last year with both teams going all out for this single leg game.

Benfica come into this game on the back of a disastrous last-minute defeat to arch rivals Porto which could cost them their domestic title, incidentally this was their first loss since September. Kelvin (Porto) scored an injury-time goal as Porto won 2-1 to end Benfica's unbeaten domestic league season and go top heading into the final day. Benfica manager Jorge Jesus' ambition will certainly be to lift the Europa League cup but also to win the Portuguese SuperLiga (domestic league) where they are currently second in the table two points behind leaders FC Porto. So with one eye on the last day results in mind Jorge will definitely look to divert his players focus away from domestic competition to the Europa League finals come this Wednesday at Amsterdam Arena.

Chelsea on the other hand come into this fixture after having secured their Champions league status for next season. A hard fought 2-1 win against relegation contenders Aston Villa was the perfect result which Chelsea could have asked for before going into Wednesday's final. Frank Lampard brace in the second half was enough for Chelsea to secure 3rd position in the EPL table ahead of the last day fixture against Everton at home. The Blues have been on an incredible run off-late by going unbeaten in their last eight matches.

With those two goals Frank Lampard became Chelsea's all time leading goalscorer, the record previously being held by Bobby Tambling. Lampard matched the record number of 202 goals with his first strike and then went on to break the record with second strike late in the second half. Earlier it was Benteke who had given Aston Villa the lead in the first half. It was a memorable day for Frank Jr. who was under tremendous pressure to achieve this feat from the day he started to get close to the record. But with the record now past him and with league position secured, both Lampard and Chelsea can now concentrate solely on the Finals that take place on Wednesday night.

Chelsea and Benfica's route to the final of Europa League

Benfica striker Oscar Cardozo and Lima will be the men to watch out for as the pair have scored 44 goals between them. And with the talented Pablo Aimar and Nemanja Matic in the midfield Benfica do posses the attacking threat to muster Chelsea's defense. A point to note will be that Oscar Cardozo has scored in six of his team's last ten matches against English teams.

For Chelsea major concern is around the pair of John Terry and Eden Hazard , both of whom were injured during Chelsea's win over Aston Villa last weekend. Terry is suffering from a soar ankle whereas Hazard has an hamstring injury.

This game marks Rafa Benitez's last European game for Chelsea, Benitez has done a decent job since he took over from Di Matteo. He came into the club knowing that he was the Interim Manager and would be departing at the end of the season irrespective of the results he achieves. It all started off on a bad note for the former Reds manager, given his previous connections with Liverpool and his comments regarding Chelsea Football Club during his reign at Merseyside. A Europa League Cup will mark a fitting a farewell for Benitez, who himself will have this win as a silver lining on his CV.

Team News

Captain John Terry, Eden Hazard, John Obi Mikel and Bertrand all are part of the 25-man squad that has traveled to Holland to face Benfica in the Europa League final. Terry (ankle) and Hazard (hamstring) are serious doubts for this game but Terry will be part of the training the takes place on Tuesday at the Amsterdam Arena. Mikel (hip) and Bertrand (knee) who missed Chelsea's last four matches have also traveled with the squad. Demba Ba who is cup-tied also forms the part of the 25-man squad traveling to Holland.

Jorge Jesus has no injury concern ahead of the final at Amsterdam and will field his strongest side in-spite of the last day important domestic league fixture that could be the title decider. Cardoza will lead the attack along with Lima and Aimar. Salvio and Gaitan  are expected to take the wide flanks with Matic in the central holding midfielder role. Despite their defeat against Porto, Jorge might be tempted to field the same defensive line-up for the finals.

Player and Manager Column


"Hazard will not be available. John still will try and see how he feels but we will decide tomorrow, Now it is not easy for him, obviously it is not the best injury but we will see today and tomorrow with the medical staff, and after we will decide."
"Jorge Jesus is a good manager, they are a good team and they have experience in Europe, In a final it is 50-50 and we will see what happens. We can make changes, they can make changes but in the end it depends on the players on the pitch."
"We can be ready but still something can change the game. It will be an interesting final for everyone, they have experience and hopefully we can use our experience too."
"A European final is massive. Maybe you can score an early goal and change, or concede three and have to change at half-time. You have to have confidence and belief you can do well. Your team has to have the same feeling, and you have to see what happens but it depends on the other team too."
"This is the final and I want to win. If we can do it I will be really proud because we worked so hard in difficult circumstances. You have to give credit to all the people involved, the staff and the players."
"We have been playing two games per week so every time, it doesn't matter the name of the opponent, we have had to deal with a small squad, injuries or suspensions, every game was difficult, so all of them."
"I cannot say this one or the other one. It doesn't matter how close to the final, they were all difficult and every game we played against very good teams, offensive teams with offensive mentalities. It was difficult for us to manage because sometimes we were coming from an important game and had an important game in two or three days, so to manage the squad and make decisions was difficult."
"If we win it will be easier for people to realise to be here at this stage of the competition means we have done a lot of things well."
"You can always improve, or make more mistakes. It is not an easy situation but we managed quite well. I think people realise now this is right. We have the feeling we have done a good job and hopefully we can do even better."


"We're talking about the highest level of club football in the world and you can't have it your way every year, we were lucky enough to have a great run to the final last year and to win it, and this year we were disappointed to end up in the Europa League but the more we have been involved in it, the more we have grown to love it." 
"The closer you get to a final the more you want to be in it, and we have realised this is a huge European final. We are very much looking forward to it and we want to win it." 
"Every game and every year is different. We were underdogs in Munich and the game panned out in our favour for a lot of reasons, but I have been lucky enough to play a few finals and they are very particular games. Small things that happen, focus and concentration, dictate the game, and whether it was Munich last year or tomorrow, we need our utmost concentration because Benfica are a very good team, as Bayern Munich were." 
"For all of us who had been involved with Chelsea for a long time, that was the big trophy we had missed out on. This is another outstanding one so all of us here, including the players who have just come to the club, want to win it." 
"We are now fourth in the Premier League at least and we want third, and it will be defined in terms of the success of the season by how we get on tomorrow."

"All the season has been difficult, but now is almost the end of the season and we have to do everything to finish the job off."
"It was very disappointing for us to go out of the Champions League. We tried to motivate ourselves to do our best in the Europa League. We're in the final and we're happy about that. We will do everything to try to win the trophy."
"It's going to be very hard. We will play against Benfica, a very good team. It's very important, another final for the club and another chance to win a trophy. It's very important for us as a group to get the chance to finish the season with a trophy."
"This is, for us, as a group, a great chance to try to finish the season with a trophy, which is very important for us, for the club, for the supporters. We're looking forward to that. You have to be just focused for this game. Finals are special games and we play against Benfica which is a very tough team. We have to be ready for it."

"We have now the chance to win two European trophies in a row, which is not easy for any club and we will try to do it, It would be very, very nice. After winning the Champions League and FA Cup [last season], it would be really nice and I would be really pleased to win another trophy with Chelsea."
"It's been a long season in terms of the amount of games, but I think it's good. I'm really happy with the season personally, but it's not finished yet. It can be even better, if we win the title."
"The manager's trying to rotate the players, we're resting. It's been a pleasure for me. He's a top manager, he's tried his best. If we win the trophy it will be great for him and the team."

"Everyone knows that I have Benfica in my heart, but when you start the game, you forget everything. I want to win with Chelsea, I want to win this title. When you play a final, you always play against big teams, big clubs. That's why Benfica are in the final, that's why Chelsea are in the final."
"It's an important final, an important competition, If you look at this season, we've lost three finals, so now we have a moment when we have another opportunity to win a title, a big title. It is important motivation. It will be a fantastic game against a historic team, so we need to win."
"Benfica have an amazing philosophy, With the ball they press high, so it is difficult when you play against them. When they press high you shouldn't leave any space [for them] to move the ball, so you need to be focused all the time. We need to be ready for all challenges."

"Winning the Europa League would be a very important moment in the club's history, and for the players and staff. Getting to the final is a great achievement in itself but coming away victorious would be even greater. Benfica are always under pressure when they play and we know that in every competition we take part in, the aim is to get to the final and win."
"I know that Benfica's great moment in sporting history was in the 1960s. I was born in '54, but I know the history of the club because I have read about it and it is illustrated in photos at the training ground."
"They have David Luíz and Ramires, but I'm not forgetting about Paulo Ferreira and Hilário. That is an important thing to note, and we're happy to meet them in the final."

"I know that it has been a long time since Benfica reached a European final, I know that they are a team with a lot of victories in the past. Now we have a chance to achieve that as well. So in terms of history, the time is now. It doesn't matter if you win two games here or three games there, it's all about how you play and what happens on the day [of the final]. You have to do well on that day and nothing else."
"You've been watching this since you were a child and now it is a reality and you've made it. I am very happy, because you dream about this as a child. Now that we are here, we want to win it, and I am sure it's the same for Chelsea."

"I have a lot of affection for Benfica when they are playing in their own competitions, but on the pitch I am a Chelsea player and I don't want to think about Benfica or anybody else. Before the game you talk to everybody and joke with your friends, you wish them well because they are your opponents, but once you start playing your mind is only on winning the game, you don't remember anything else."
"In this final I will be doing everything I can for Chelsea to win, and it's easy to separate these feelings. Whoever is in your way, it doesn't matter. Of course I still have friends like Luisao, Maxi Pereira, Oscar Cardozo and Pablo Aimar. They're very good players and what I can tell you is they are a very good team, well organised and dangerous. They score goals, don't have a doubt about that."
"In a game like this you have to keep attention on all the 11 players. If you focus on one player who might give you trouble, one of the others could do something special and leave you in a difficult situation. No player wins anything alone, so we have to be at our best throughout the team. We must give them plenty of respect, which they deserve because a lot of them are internationals and they have been playing together a long time."



Predicting for the finals is never an easy task, let alone any other game. Any Cup final promises to be a tough game, with both sides eager not to give away any goal, so we can expect a defensive display from both teams at the start. I do expect both teams to score and the second half could get really interesting if either Benfica or Chelsea score in the first half. Given the experience I expect Chelsea to come out on top but by only a single goal margin

Scoreline: Benfica 1 Chelsea 2

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My Starting Line-up

Benfica vs Chelsea Predicted Line-Up

So get ready for some pulsating action at Amsterdam Arena in Holland. Come on CHELSEA!!! KTBFFH.

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