GILES SMITH'S THURSDAY THOUGHTS
With the month in which competitions climax now upon us, Chelsea supporter and columnist Giles Smith is thinking ahead…
The worst possible outcome tonight, of course, is that the team don't turn up, or only turn up in a tired and half-inspired way, Basel somehow scramble the two goals they need to go with the one gifted to them by the referee in the first leg, and we go out of the Europa League and don't get to finish the season by having a jolly little mini-break in Amsterdam.
The second worst possible outcome, though, to my mind - or, at least, a very bad possible outcome - is that the team do turn up, looking perfectly lively enough, Basel don't manage to scramble anything at all, we do all end up qualifying for a midweek jaunt to Holland and a chance to see John Terry/ Frank Lampard/ Petr Cech raise Europe's second most important club knock-out trophy and the only piece of silverware missing from the club's portfolio… and David Luiz gets booked.
Our centre-back-turned-probing-midfielder and potential future captain is one of four players for whom a caution tonight means suspension for the final, the others being Ramires, John Mikel Obi and Ryan Bertrand. And one wouldn't want to see that happen to any of them. But one particularly wouldn't want to see it happen to David Luiz.
Not after the free kick that won the second leg. Not after the string of top-notch performances that he has given in this competition in particular. Not after all the stuff he said about how much he wants to win the Europa League. Not after how miserable he was when we didn't win the Club World Cup.
And if, on top of this, the final turned out to be against his old club Benfica, and then he wasn't able to play…
No. It can't happen that way. Tonight we want the team to turn up, Basel to wilt and no yellow for David Luiz. That's the perfect outcome. Actually, it's the only acceptable outcome.
Congratulations to Gareth Bale on winning the PFA Player of the Year Award and becoming the Young Player of the Year, too. That's a pretty impressive pay-off for what has been, in effect, half a season's decent work, so good for him.
Personally, I wouldn't have voted for Bale in either of those categories - and not just because I can't quite work out how someone who will be 24 this summer can really count as young, in football terms. Mostly I wouldn't have voted for him because I'm old-fashioned enough to think that awards like these ought to be given for a full season of performances, rather than to players who have only properly woken up around Christmas.
That's why I'd have given the Player of the Year Award to Juan Mata, who has been a genuinely important, tirelessly inventive and completely committed presence in every game in which he has played. And he's been part of a side, too, which has played an unthinkable number of games and been competing for trophies all season long, rather than just kind of lounging around and hoping eventually to fudge their way into fourth place, like Tottenham.
Odd, then, that Bale should clean up. But then, it's a bit like those lists you sometimes see in the newspapers - of 100 Best Ever Films, say, or 100 Best Ever Albums. And you look at them and think, ''Skyfall'? Number four? Really?' or, perhaps, 'Adele? In the top five, all-time? Surely not…'
But then you realise that what tends to happen in the compilation of these lists is that a lot of people don't trouble to sit back and take a broad view, but rather vote for the last thing that made a big impression on them. And I can only suppose that, for a lot of PFA members, it was Gareth Bale whacking it in from distance against West Ham, or whoever. Saying that Gareth Bale is the player of the season is like saying that 'Skyfall' is the fourth best film of all time. It's not; it just happens to be something that was in people's minds recently.
Because football can, just occasionally (and there's no point denying this or hiding from it), promote uncharitable and somewhat heartless thoughts, and perhaps even slightly encourage us to relish them, I wonder if anyone else has already envisaged a scenario for the forthcoming Champions League final at Wembley.
A scenario in which, ahead of the game, Bayern Munich fans unveil an adapted version of that most impressive banner ('Our city, our stadium, our trophy') that dropped down behind their goal on the same occasion last year - perhaps this time reading 'Not our city, in fact, nor our stadium, to be honest, but surely our trophy this time'. (My German's not up to the mark, but I'm imagining that maybe these alterations could be made to the existing banner with a marker pen.)
So they drop the banner… only for Borussia Dortmund to take the game into extra time courtesy of a headed equaliser at the near post with barely two minutes remaining, cling on for the next half an hour (with, perhaps, Arjen Robben missing a penalty, though that's a detail), and then to go on and snatch the cup in the shoot-out, despite having got off to the least promising start by missing their first pen, Robert Lewandowski eventually nailing it with what turns out to be, in an almost fairy tale way, his last kick in a Dortmund shirt.
Or is that just me?
I didn't think so.