Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez is wary of a Basel comeback, despite a late David Luiz goal giving them a 2-1 lead from their Europa League semifinal first leg in Switzerland last week.
In the previous round the Swiss champions stunned Chelsea’s fellow London side Tottenham with two goals in the opening half before being pegged back for a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane and Benitez is well aware of Basel’s offensive threat.
“I think they will come trying to score,” Benitez said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “They did it against Tottenham. I am sure they will be offensive and push. We saw that in the second half and I think it will be the same approach. It's the only way for them to qualify.”
As much as the danger posed by their opponents, Benitez is also keen to guard against his players believing that an away victory in the first leg has already sealed their place in the final in Amsterdam later this month.
“We have an opportunity but my concern is that we will be thinking we are in the final,” he explained. “It's not the case.
“We play against a very good team that has scored goals away, so everybody has to realize it will be difficult. Hopefully I will be wrong and we can score a lot of goals, but first we have to win and afterwards we can think about the final.”
Chelsea will be without left-back Ashley Cole through suspension, with Ryan Bertrand set to come in.
After becoming the first ever Swiss side to reach the semifinals of a European competition, Basel will have been disappointed with their performance in the first leg last week, despite appearing to have salvaged a draw through Fabian Schar’s late penalty before David Luiz’s even later free-kick.
That loss was followed up by a 3-0 home loss to Lucerne as their lead at the top of the Swiss Super League remained just three points. But, despite never having won in England, manager Murat Yakin has faith that his team can match Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
“Chelsea are strong in defense and attack, we know that, but my team also have very good qualities -- we showed what we are capable of against Tottenham," he said, according to UEFA’s website.
D: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Bertrand
M: Lampard, Mikel
Moses, Oscar, Hazard
D: Degen, Schar, Sauro, Park
M: Elneny, Die, F. Frei
F: Salah, Streller, Stocker
Prediction: While Basel may be better than they showed in the first leg, Chelsea are strong favorites to make the final. The tie could well have been put out of sight in the first leg had Chelsea not begun to sit back rather than pushing on and capitalizing on their early superiority. If Benitez’s side do the same again at home and merely look to defend their lead then Basel certainly have a chance to make things mightily uncomfortable.
But with another trophy now in sight, Chelsea should be too strong and end the fine run of Basel.
Chelsea 2-1 Basel
Where to watch: The Europa League semifinal second leg will kick-off at 3.05 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.