BENITEZ: ANOTHER TOUGH TEST
Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea will need to be at our best to triumph against a Basel side that has impressed him in reaching the last four of the Europa League.
Like ourselves, the Swiss champions began this season in the Champions League before dropping into the Europa following the winter break from continental competition, and eliminated our London rivals Tottenham on penalties in the quarter-finals.
That gave Benitez the opportunity to see first-hand what Murat Yakin's team is capable of.
'We have had good teams in the Europa League,' he said, considering Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan. 'Basel is in the semi-final and deserve to be there. They've worked very hard, have played well, and are well organised. They press well and play good counter-attack. They have good players with pace and ability so we will have to do really well if we want to win.
'Philipp Degen was my player [at Liverpool] and is a good professional, a worker and enjoys playing football. They have some good young players and others with more experience.'
Both Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill, who have missed the past three weeks, were on the flight to Switzerland, and the manager is delighted both should be able to figure on Thursday night which could help some tired legs elsewhere in the squad.
'Both are here and will train today. They are fine,' he reported.
'Obviously fatigue when you play so many games and travel around Europe is a key factor to consider. I praise my staff because we try to manage the squad in the best way possible. Still the team is [playing] good games and we have fresh legs in some players. We have to rotate, change and manage players.'
Benitez believes we are still seeing improvement from his Spanish compatriot.
'The main thing we have seen is he has more confidence, especially at the beginning when he was scoring goals,' said the manager. 'When he hasn't scored too much he has lost some confidence, but he is doing his specific programme for his strength. He is sharper now and has scored some goals so is more confident. We will see if he can carry on tomorrow.'