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EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: BENFICA V CHELSEA

It's our 16th and final European game of the season, with silverware at stake. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton have all the final facts and figures…


TALKING POINTS
Chelsea have the chance to join a genuinely elite group of clubs this evening but may have to show all the hunger and determination of last season's Champions League triumph to achieve it.

Here's hoping it is fourth time lucky for silverware this season after defeat in the Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Victory would put the Stamford Bridge club on the same pedestal as Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax, whose stadium hosts tonight's showpiece. The Pensioners would stand alongside those greats as the fourth club to win all three of UEFA's major trophies. If the UEFA Super Cup is added, the current coterie is reduced to just Juve and Ajax.

KEY STAT
A Chelsea victory will ensure we are the first club ever to be holders simultaneously of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.


The Londoners could also become the first team to win the two main UEFA trophies in reverse order - José Mourinho's Porto were the last team to win them in successive seasons (UEFA Cup in 2002/03 and UEFA Champions League in 2003/04).

The 65cm high, Italian-designed trophy, a handle-less silver cup with a yellow marble plinth, is the old UEFA Cup, first lifted in 1972.

This is Chelsea's 11th final in the 10 years of the Roman Abramovich era - the 12th if you include this season's Super Cup - and our fifth European final overall. It is Benfica's ninth European final but their first in 23 years; they were defeated in their last six.

After a magnificent start to the new year the Eagles have hit a rocky patch, registering just three wins in their last eight matches in all competitions. They have won once in four away trips (courtesy of a penalty and a Marítimo player's own goal) and have not won on the road in their last two Europa League matches, at Newcastle (1-1) and Fenerbahçe (0-1).

However, Chelsea's away victory at Basel in the semi-final was the team's first since Prague in February.

Never the less Benfica's untimely dip was emphasised on Saturday night at the home of title rivals Porto. In a dramatic conclusion to the title showdown at the Dragao, Kelvin struck a winner for Vitor Pereira's side in the 93rd minute.

Jesus

This was a big psychological blow. Eagles coach Jorge Jesus (pictured above) sank to his knees on the turf not just because Porto now lead the SuperLiga by one point before the final match this weekend, but because it foretold his side's first league defeat of the season.

Last season's runners-up are desperate to win back the title they last claimed in 2009/10 but also contest the Portuguese Cup final against Vitória Guimarães in 10 days' time.

In contrast Chelsea have hit the best form for some time and the win at Aston Villa - only the third there in 15 visits - virtually guaranteed a Champions League finish, clearing the decks for tonight's final.

The main headlines were written by Frank Lampard securing his place in Chelsea history as all-time record goalscorer, reaching 203. It is a remarkable achievement for any player, let alone a midfielder, and so many of them have been crucial ones. Frank has now struck 14 against Aston Villa - more than any opponent. Very many congratulations again to him.

(On the goals theme, our winner at Old Trafford was officially attributed to Juan Mata on Monday by a Premier League committee.)

The win in the Midlands did come at the cost of two casualties, though. John Terry and Eden Hazard both had to be helped off the field of play and Hazard won't face Benfica. The captain is to have a late fitness test. At least no one is suspended this time for the Blues. Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles missed out on last season's showpiece.

The Portuguese have already seen off English opposition in this competition, beating Demba Ba's old club Newcastle United 3-1 at home, thanks to goals from Rodrigo, Lima and Cardozo. They drew the second leg 1-1 at St James' Park through a stoppage-time strike by Eduardo Sálvio.

Our opponents in the semi-finals, Basel, had previously knocked Tottenham out of the competition after a penalty shootout.

If involved, Nathan Ake could become the youngest Europa League champion to date, and Frank Lampard the oldest.

The Portuguese were drawn as the nominal home side for tonight's match, but of course there is no colour clash with the Encarnardos' (Reds') kit. Both finalists joined the Europa League having come third in their Champions League groups. Benfica finished behind Barcelona and Celtic.

The Amsterdam ArenA has staged one previous UEFA final in 1998 in the Champions League between Real Madrid and Juventus. It was also used for Euro 2000. The capacity for UEFA matches is 51,800.

If the scorers are level after 90 minutes extra-time will be played and, if necessary, penalties.

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.

Benfica have featured in just two penalty shoot-outs in Europe, winning their most recent against PAOK Salonika in the 1999/00 UEFA Cup second round, and losing the other in the 1988 European Cup final against PSV Eindhoven.

KEY TWEET
Who do you think could be Chelsea's hero this evening? #CFCPMB

 

Europa League top scorers
Libor Kozák (Lazio) 8
Edinson Cavani (Napoli) 7
Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) 6
Rodrigo Palacio (Internazionale) 6
Fernando Torres (Chelsea) 5
Raul Bobadilla (Young Boys Bern) 5
José Rondón (Rubin Kazan) 5
Victor Moses (Chelsea) 4


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EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: BENFICA V CHELSEA

WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea and Benfica's only previous competitive meeting was in last season's Champions League. A makeshift Blues side - Paulo Ferreira starting, Didier Drogba an unused sub, for example - edged to victory over the side that had qualified at Manchester United's expense in the group stage.

David Luiz cleared Óscar Cardozo's shot off the line, Juan Mata hit a post, and Cardozo and Salomon Kalou both squandered decent chances. The only goal came after a fine surge into the box by Fernando Torres, who laid across for Kalou to complete from close in.

The hosts started the second leg at Stamford Bridge in fine fashion, Frank Lampard (sub in the first game) converting a penalty midway through the first half. Defender Maxi Pereira was dismissed for a second bookable offence just before half-time but it was the Pensioners who lost their way on the resumption.

Benfica took advantage of Chelsea's lack of adventure to dominate possession and nerves jangled when Javi Garcia equalised to produce an aggregate 2-1. Still the Portuguese held the initiative, until a breakaway goal bang on 90 minutes allowed Raul Meireles, a former Porto man, to celebrate lavishly in front of the visiting fans.

Chelsea v Benfica


The two teams also met at Stamford Bridge in the International Charity Cup on 7 October 1964, which raised money for the British Organisation for Rehabilitation through Training and the Jewish National Fund. A crowd of 23,369 saw a Benfica side including Eusébio win 4-2.

Barry Bridges scored a brace for the Blues. Our team was: Peter Bonetti; Ken Shellito, Eddie McCreadie, John Hollins, Marvin Hinton (John Mortimore), Ron Harris, Bert Murray, Bobby Tambling (George Graham), Barry Bridges, Terry Venables (c), Peter Houseman (Bobby Tambling).

The star-studded Benfica XI was: Costa Pereira, Cavém, Germano, Machado, Jacinto, Neto, Coluna, Augusto, Eusebio, Torres, Simões.

Chelsea contested the same trophy two years later at the Bridge against Real Madrid and won 2-0. We apparently remain the cup holders.

When quizzed about the matches Ron Harris, then a young defender, recalled veteran Ferenc Puskas's unimpressive cameo for Real - he was 40 and a 'portly gentleman' - not the precise words Ron used (!) - and how it contrasted with the skill and power of Benfica's Eusebio.

John Mortimore made 279 appearances for Chelsea between 1956 and 1965 before twice occupying the hot seat at the Estádio da Luz from 1976 to 1979, then 1985-7. He steered them to the league title and Portuguese Cup during both spells.


LAST SEASON'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER-FINAL
Benfica 0-1 Chelsea
27 March 2005 first leg Estádio da Luz
Benfica (4-1-3-2): Artur; Pereira, Luisão (c), Jardel, Emerson; Garcia (Nolito 81); Gaitán, Witsel, Bruno César (Rodrigo 68); Aimar (Matić 68), O Cardozo
Chelsea (4-4-1-1): Cech; Ferreira (Bosingwa 79), D Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Meireles (Lampard 67), Mikel, Kalou (Sturridge 82); Mata; Torres
Scorer Kalou (74)
Attendance 60,830

Chelsea 2-1 Benfica
4 April 2005 second leg Stamford Bridge
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry (c) (Cahill 59), Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Mata (Meireles 79), Kalou; Torres (Drogba 88)
Scorers Lampard (20 pen), Meireles (90+2)
Benfica (4-1-3-2): Artur; Pereira (c) (sent off 39), Garcia, Emerson, Capdevila; Matić; Bruno César (Rodrigo 72), Witsel, Gaitán (Djalo 61); O Cardozo (Oliveira 56), Aimar
Scorer Garcia (84)
Attendance 37,264

Visit again at lunchtime for Part Two of the Briefing.

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