Europa League: Chelsea take on Basel with sights set on reaching final
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsrobp. Last Updated: 02/05/13 10:44am
Rafa Benitez wants Chelsea focus to be on Basel and not Jose Mourinho
Chelsea are 90 minutes away from a place in the Europa League final as they take a 2-1 advantage into their semi-final second leg against Basel at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night.
It may not have been the continental silverware the outgoing UEFA Champions League holders were hoping for this season, but the Blues are on course to add yet another trophy to their cabinet.
The build-up to the match has been somewhat overshadowed by growing speculation that former manager Jose Mourinho will return to the West London club in the summer.
Interim boss Rafa Benitez, who is also looking to secure a top-four Premier League finish and another season of Champions League football, insists the squad will not be distracted and would not be drawn into giving an opinion on who will replace him in the summer.
Mourinho's possible return would be hugely popular with the home supporters, a fact which will not have been lost on the club's hierarchy after the negative response from some quarters to the short-term appointment of Benitez.
Chelsea will need to be on their guard against the Swiss side, who defeated Tottenham in the last round and scored four times in the two legs against the White Hart Lane outfit.
But the away goals scored by Victor Moses and David Luiz last week give Benitez's men a useful cushion and they are strong favourites to progress to the final on May 15 in Amsterdam.
Ashley Cole is suspended as Chelsea take on Basel, seeking to seal a place in the May 15 final in Amsterdam.
David Luiz, Ryan Bertrand, Ramires and John Obi Mikel are on yellow cards and may not be risked as the Blues take a 2-1 first-leg lead into the contest with the Swiss champions.
Ramires suffered a dead leg in last Sunday's defeat of Swansea and could be rested anyway, with Sunday's match at Manchester United in mind, while definite absentees are the ineligible Demba Ba and Oriol Romeu (knee).
Basel's task could be more difficult as they could be without their attacking focal point in Marco Streller as the 6ft 6in striker faces a late fitness test.
Despite their impressive run to a first European semi-final - a streak which has seen them overcome Zenit St Petersburg and Spurs - Basel are still to win away from home in the tournament.
They also suffered a 3-0 home defeat to FC Luzern in domestic action at the weekend and are yet to win in their eight games away to English opposition in Europe.
Previous game's starting line-ups
- 23 Schwarzer
- 28 Azpilicueta
- 24 Cahill
- 4 David Luiz
- 3 Cole
- 12 Mikel
- 8 Lampard
- 22 Willian
- 14 Schurrle
- 15 De Bruyne
- 29 Eto'o
Team taken from Chelsea vs Sunderland (Capital One Cup) on Tuesday 17th December 2013
Europa League Group A
Europa League Group B
Europa League Group C
|1||Red Bull Salzburg||6||18|
Europa League Group D
Europa League Group E
Europa League Group F
|2||Maccabi Tel Aviv||6||11|
Europa League Group G
Europa League Group H
Europa League Group I
|3||Vitoria de Guimaraes||6||5|
Europa League Group J
Europa League Group K
|3||Sheriff Tiraspol (Mol)||6||6|
Europa League Group L
|3||Maccabi Haifa (Isr)||6||5|