The Semi-Finals of the Europa League are tantalisingly poised with Chelsea and Fenerbahce holding slender one-goal leads going into the deciding leg. Chelsea are firm favourites to progress after securing a 2-1 victory against Basle last week, a match that they dominated from start to finish. But for some lack lustre finishing, they would surely have wrapped up the tie that night but only David Luiz’s last gasp free-kick separates the sides. They appeared to be coasting at 1-0 but were rocked when the referee gave a penalty to Basle after a perfectly good clearance late on. No player had even appealed for an infringement but the home side were grateful to be gifted a way back into the tie.
Chelsea’s build up to this match has been overshadowed by persistent rumours that Jose Mourinho could be heading back to Stamford Bridge this summer. Interim manager Rafael Benitez has failed to lift a trophy during his short stay and this will be his last opportunity to do so. The club’s priority remains securing a Champions League spot next season and they have massive Premiership fixtures against Manchester United on Sunday and Tottenham on Wednesday to consider. Benitez has not always managed to get his team selection right and would be mistaken if he thinks he can send out anything less than a full strength side to see off the Swiss team this evening.
One selection that will be automatic is that of Fernando Torres at centre forward. Demba Ba is cup-tied having represented Newcastle in this competition so the Spaniard has featured strongly throughout the tournament. The Blues will be looking to Torres to provide the goal that would surely be sufficient to book their place in the final. Basle, impressive when defeating Tottenham in the previous round, were well below their best last week and a stronger performance is anticipated.
Benfica are favourites to overcome the one-goal deficit in the other semi-final but Fenerbahce have given themselves a real chance by keeping a clean sheet in the first leg. If they could hit the target tonight Benfica will need to score three times to progress. In fact, the Turks were value for more than a 1-0 victory last week as they hit the woodwork on three occasions and missed a penalty. It was left to Egemen Korkmaz to provide the winning goal with a header inside the last twenty minutes. Benfica will feel a shade fortunate to have come away with only a one-goal defeat, particularly in the hostile atmosphere of Istanbul. Rather like Basle in the other tie, Benfica will be looking to play a lot better tonight.
Basle are 10-1 to reach the final and 7-2 to record a shock victory in the online betting and casino on tonight’s game at Stamford Bridge. Fernando Torres is 9-2 to open the scoring for the Blues with his compatriot Juan Mata next best at 11-2. The bookmakers can barely split the teams in the other game with Benfica 10-11 to progress and Fenerbahce at even money.