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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V BASEL

It's the final Thursday game of the season as the quest for silverware continues. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton put the semi-final second leg under the spotlight…


TALKING POINTS
Basel natives refer to themselves as 'Bebbi' and after last week's blow to morale inflicted on their home ground by Chelsea, they need a show of smouldering defiance. Perhaps they could emulate Patrick Swayze and proclaim, 'Nobody puts Bebbi in a corner.'

There was little Dirty Dancing in Basel last Thursday though perhaps Eden Hazard gave 'em the old Basel-dazzle. David Luiz broke their hearts but it was the Belgian who swept the Swiss off their feet and Chelsea had enough chances to win more comfortably.

What we know for sure is that to progress to the final in Amsterdam on 15 May Basel would have to win tonight by a scoreline greater than 1-0. The Swiss champions have bullishly said they have 'nothing to lose' but their impressive recent scalps in UEFA competitions were founded on fine home form. They have never won an away game in Europe after the winter break.

KEY STAT
Chelsea are hoping to qualify for our 12th final over the 10 years of the Roman Abramovich era, and our fifth European final overall.


Nor have Basel ever won on English soil. The victory in Switzerland last week was also the first by a Chelsea side in an away European semi-final first leg. Of the previous six, we lost four and drew two.

The champions of Europe could yet win the Europa League before relinquishing the Champions League title. No side has ever won the two trophies that way round - typical contrary Chelsea, should it happen.

Basel's priorities may also have shifted over the past week. On Sunday Murat Yakin's men looked jaded in a 0-3 league defeat by Lucerne at St Jakob-Park. They were last beaten at home without scoring way back in May 2009 - Christian Gross's final game in charge.

The result allowed deadly rivals Grasshoppers to move three points behind the title holders and the Zurich club's next fixture is a relatively easy one at home to Servette, marooned at the foot of the Swiss Super League. Basel face an away to fourth-placed Sion.

Should Yakin risk injured Fabian Schär (pictured below), his side's defensive lynchpin, and striker Marco Streller tonight, or allow them to recover fully for Sunday?

Basel

Chelsea travel to Old Trafford this weekend knowing that a haul of nine points from the remaining 12 available will guarantee a top-four finish.

On Sunday Frank Lampard equalled Andy Cole's record of scoring against 38 different Premier League clubs for Chelsea and West Ham. He is now just one goal behind all-time top scorer Bobby Tambling, who hit 202.

This is the 35th successive midweek our players have played for club or country. The last clear week all the players were at Cobham training was the final week of August leading up to the Super Cup against Atlético Madrid.

KEY TWEET
Who was Chelsea's first Swiss international player? #CFCPMB


Nine players from Chelsea and Basel's squads will be suspended for the final if they are booked tonight (four from Chelsea and five from Basel).

If the score after 90 minutes is 2-1 to Basel then extra time will be played and if necessary penalties. The away goals rule applies so any other score will result in the game ending after normal time.

Chelsea have won three of our last five penalty shoot-outs, the last being at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Basel's shoot-out win against Tottenham in the last round was their first in UEFA competitions.

The winners tonight will play Fenerbahçe or Benfica at the Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday 15 May. Chelsea have beaten both the other semi-finalists in our only encounters to date.

Former Blues Miroslav Stoch and Raul Meireles of Fenerbahçe take a 1-0 lead to Portugal from last week. The influential Luisão was missing for Benfica with a thigh injury and the Turks dominated aerial battles. Meireles was carried off on a stretcher after an hour.

The Águias's last two defeats in all competitions at Estádio da Luz were against Barça this season and Chelsea last.

Tonight's semi-final Europa League ties
Chelsea v Basel 8.05pm (agg 2-1)
Benfica v Fenerbahçe 8.05pm (agg 0-1)


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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V BASEL

WE HAVE HISTORY
Although Chelsea as a club had never before played a competitive match against Basel before the first leg, a number of Blues did step out on Swiss turf almost 60 years before their successors last week.

The competition was the inaugural Inter-Cities Fairs Cup for cities that had staged trade fairs, so that the Chelsea men formed part of a London XI and the Swiss opponents were also a Basel select XI.

This was an unwieldy tournament with a group stage alone that ranged over two years from June 1955. Jimmy Greaves, Peter Sillett and Jim Lewis were among those Blues who played the London XI.

London and Basel were in Group D and Sillett, Stan Willemse, Ken Armstrong and Derek Saunders from the playing staff at Stamford Bridge helped earn a 5-0 win at Basel's St Jakob-Stadion - precursor to last week's venue - on 4 June 1955.

The London XI's manager throughout was, curiously, Blues chairman Joe Mears (pictured below), who had been on the board at Stamford Bridge since 1931. Perhaps he was handed the job as a sop after being forced to accept the Football League's decision to block champions Chelsea's participation in the inaugural European Cup.

Joe Mears

Almost a year passed before Basel paid the return visit to the English capital. Sillett, Stan Wicks and Jim Lewis, skippered by future Blues manager Danny Blanchflower, all played at White Hart Lane on 4 May 1956.

A dire match was enlivened by Italian referee Orlandini, whose unfamiliar high-pitched whistle generated peals of laughter from the Cockney crowd at each infringement.

Just before the final comedy peep, Chelsea man Wicks set up Tottenham winger George Robb for the winner. Basel finished bottom of the group and were eliminated, while the London XI played Barcelona in the final, losing 2-8 on aggregate.

 

PMB

 

Chelsea's biggest home win in Europe
Chelsea 13-0 Jeunesse Hautcharage - 29/09/1971 -European Cup Winners' Cup first round second leg

Basel's biggest away win in Europe
Fram Reykjavik 0-5 Basel - 18/09/1973 - European Cup first round first leg

Visit again at lunchtime for Part Two of the Briefing.

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