Chelsea will be without Eden Hazard for their Europa League final against Benfica, while there is considerable doubt about the fitness of captain John Terry.
Rafael Benitez is looking to secure silverware before his interim spell as manager comes to a close at the end of the season but he will be unable to call upon the influential Belgian attacking midfielder due to a hamstring injury he suffered in a win over Aston Villa on Saturday.
Terry received an ankle injury in that same match and looks set to miss out having played little part in training at the Amsterdam Arena. However, there is some doubt as to whether Terry would have played anyway, given Benitez’s preference for not playing the 32-year-old in consecutive matches.
That pattern may well be broken, though, for another of Chelsea’s veteran, Frank Lampard. The midfielder claimed the club’s goal-scoring record at the weekend and has said that, despite some questioning last season’s Champions League winners’ commitment to the Europa League, he is focused on lifting the trophy.
“You get close to the final and you want to be here," he explained, according to UEFA’s website. “It's a huge European final. We want to win it to say we've won it -- simple as that."
After their early elimination from the Champions League, Chelsea edged past Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan before beating Basel 5-2 on aggregate in the semifinals.
Fernando Torres has scored five goals en-route to the final and, with Demba Ba ineligible, the Spaniard will again lead the line in the Dutch capital. Chelsea could also feature former Benfica players Ramires and David Luiz in their lineup.
That duo is just two of the many players that Benfica have sold to some of Europe’s biggest clubs in recent years. Much credit then must go to the club for continuing to rebuild and produce successful and aesthetically pleasing sides.
The Lisbon giants reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League in 2010, before going one stage better the following season. Last year they reached the last eight of the Champions League before suffering a narrow defeat to their opponents on Wednesday.
In Nemanja Matic, their midfield will include a player who was cast aside by Chelsea, but who has shown himself to be an influential presence and is now being linked with moves to some of Europe’s giants. Benfica’s front line is likely to be led by Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo, who has hit six goals in the competition this season.
Before this past weekend, it had looked like it might be a glory-laden season for Jorge Jesus’ side. But, despite heading into the game with Porto unbeaten and with a two-point advantage over their rivals atop the Portuguese Liga, Benfica conceded an injury-time goal to lose 2-1.
Their fate will now be decided in the coming days, with the final game of the league season to come on Sunday, and the pressure is now firmly on Jesus to avoid ending the campaign empty handed.
Jesus will have to cope without full-back Maxi Pereira on Wednesday, after the Uruguayan picked up a third booking of the competition in Benfica’s semifinal win over Fenerbahce.
D: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole
M: Ramires, Lampard
Oscar, Mata, Moses
D: Almeida, Garay, Luisao, Melgarejo
M: Perez, Matic, Gaitan
Salvio, Cardozo, Lima
Prediction: While they may have fallen short in a final and two semifinals this season, Chelsea’s pedigree in big matches is significantly more impressive than Benfica in recent times. It remains to be seen just how much of an impact the crushing disappointment their loss to Porto will have on Benfica going into the final.
It promises to be an engaging match with Benfica having plenty of technically gifted players and Chelsea featuring the likes of Juan Mata and Oscar. Eden Hazard will be missed, but Moses’ more natural width could do damage against a Benfica team that generally plays quite narrow.
There is unlikely to be much between the sides, but Chelsea should have just too much mentally as well as physically.
Chelsea 2-1 Benfica
Where to watch: The Europa League final will kick-off from the Amsterdam Arena at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.