What a second half of the season this has been for Chelsea. Following the widespread negative reaction to the appointment of ex Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, the West Londoners went on a barren run of form, struggling to score and looking likely to drop out of the top 4. Fast-forward a few months, and not only have Chelsea almost sewn up 3rd place but they’ve also reached the final of the Europa League. Even Fernando Torres has been playing well!
Chelsea travel to Amsterdam to face a very good Benfica side, and the game promises to be a fantastic spectacle. Chelsea have played particularly well in recent weeks, while Benfica only lost their first domestic match on Saturday, so neither side is likely to roll over.
Both sides have worked hard to reach the final, with Chelsea battling to an impressive win against tough Swiss outfit FC Basel in the semi final. Benfica also overcame a star-studded Fenerbahce side en route to the Amsterdam Arena and now that both sides are in the final you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re going to want to return home with a trophy.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, there are a quite a few injury concerns in their squad which could hamper their ability to put out as strong a side as they’d like. Eden Hazard has proved to be a good signing for the Blues, but is sadly ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in Saturday’s win over Aston Villa. Chelsea captain John Terry is also a doubt after sustaining a knee injury in the same fixture.
The main team news from Benfica’s perspective is the absence of the suspended Maxi Pereira, but it will also be interesting to see how the Portugese giants pick themselves up from their loss at Porto that all but ceded the title to their biggest rivals. Benfica manager Jorge Jesus insists that this will have no effect on their ability to perform on Wednesday night, but nevertheless, that defeat rocked the Portugese side in a big way.
Whatever the result, it promises to be a fantastic night of football, and will cap off a fantastic season of Europa League football – a season in which the Europa League has gained more credibility than ever before.