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EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: BENFICA V CHELSEA

TACTICAL BRIEF
How might Chelsea's last tilt at a trophy this season be a successful one? We have the crucial insights.

Key battles
Some observers rate this Benfica side more highly than the team we beat home and away in last season's Champions League. Once again David Luiz, Ramires and Nemanja Matic are playing against their previous clubs.

Former Blue Matic has become the crucial cog in the Benfica machine, rated among the best midfielders in Portugal. He is the deeper-lying of the Eagles' middle three, and his main task will be to close down his former club's attacking midfielders, especially king of the assist and near namesake Juan Mata.

The Serb can deliver incisive passes himself from deep. Chelsea will ensure that he is closed down quickly and his avenues closed.

Enzo Perez is generally given more licence to roam but still presses hard, just higher up the field; Carlos Martins is a grittier alternative. Attacking midfielder Nico Gaitan, who departed the field at Porto injured, can be the Portuguese side's main advanced playmaker.

Wingers Eduardo Salvio and Lima are also in fine form. Jorge Jesus likes his team to play the ball from the back, with heavy reliance on the flankers to take the game to opponents, allowing others to join the attack. Once in the final third their swift and well-rehearsed interplay regularly produces chances.

Again, hard-working sides can close those wide channels, after which Benfica sometimes resort to longer balls forward that bypass the middle.

One target is regular centre forward Oscar Cardozo, who can be an enigmatic presence, capable of brilliance or anonymity in the manner of Dimitar Berbatov.

Elusive fellow forward Pablo Aimar (pictured below) is still a fans' favourite but he may live to regret his suggestion in an interview that this is the 'weakest Chelsea team there has been' in the 10 years since Roman Abramovich arrived.

Aimar


Cardozo and Lima are especially dangerous in the box and standing off attackers has proved a costly habit for Chelsea recently. Cardozo has notched 32 goals in UEFA competitions and is clever with his aerial distribution, often looking to Aimar.

One offensive weapon the Portuguese will be without is the long-throw of Maxi Pereira, who is suspended.

Although they have conceded fewer goals in the Europa League than the Londoners, Benfica do have weaknesses at the back, even with Pereira, especially wide.

Their lack of pace can be exposed. The Eagles have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five Europa League matches (however with Rafael Benitez's side it is more: seven).

Luisao is the key organiser and leader in the heart of their defence but is not fast nor especially strong.

He could be troubled by the kind of delivery of which Juan Mata and Oscar in particular are capable. Equally, Chelsea's top scorer in this tournament Fernando Torres - our only available striker as Demba Ba is ineligible - may not be Luisao's physical master but his hassling and ingenuity may well prove fruitful.

The loss of Eden Hazard to injury is a blow but his possible replacement Victor Moses has delivered brilliantly in this competition, scoring in his last four successive matches. Similarly Oscar's last few weeks have been the most prolific of his first season with the Pensioners. The Brazilian was rested at Villa Park.

The Portuguese will also be concerned by the prowling threat of Frank Lampard, so often a history-maker for the Blues. The club's new record goalscorer, who skippered his side to European glory this time last year, brings with him unique experience and mental strength.

For the Blues to prevail will take a performance of high intensity, focus and pace, which Benfica are well capable of producing themselves. Chelsea must banish the recent inefficiency in front of goal as, like so many finals, this may be a game decided by one momentary lapse or spark of inspiration.

Let us hope, in the birthplace of a famous lager, this match refreshes the Chelsea parts other finals this season couldn't reach.


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EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: BENFICA V CHELSEA

CHELSEA STATS
Although this will be our first competitive visit to the Amsterdam ArenA, we have played against DWS Amsterdam at the Olympisch Stadium in the 1968/69 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup second round second leg. We lost on a toss of a coin after both legs ended goalless.

A young Chelsea XI also played Ajax in a July 2010 friendly at the ArenA, going down 1-3 to Martin Jol's full-strength team.

The Blues are looking to become the fourth English club to lift the UEFA Cup/Europa League trophy. The three others are Liverpool (three times), Tottenham (twice) and Ipswich.

We are hoping to become the only English club to win all three major UEFA competitions, having won the Champions League last season and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 and 1998. Three clubs that have achieved it are Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich. (The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was not organised by UEFA.)

If the Super Cup is included, only two sides currently have the set: Juventus and Ajax. Chelsea are aiming to become the third.

John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Paulo Ferreira and John Mikel Obi are aiming to win their sixth different trophy as a Chelsea player.

This is the 37th successive midweek that our players have either played for the club or been away on international duty. The last clear week all the players were at Cobham training was the last week of August leading up to the Super Cup against Atlético Madrid.

 

Chelsea have appeared in four previous European finals
1970/71 ECWC Real Madrid in Piraeus D 1-1*
Replay Real Madrid in Piraeus  W 2-1
1997/98 ECWC VfB Stuttgart in Stockholm W 1-0
2007/08 UCL Manchester United in Moscow D 1-1**
2011/12 UCL Bayern Munich in Munich D 1-1+
* after extra time **lost on penalties after extra time +won on penalties after extra time

ECWC=European Cup Winners' Cup UCL=UEFA Champions League

 

Chelsea's record against Portuguese teams
2004/05 Porto Champions League group stage H 3-1 A 1-2
2006/07 Porto Champions League round of 16 H 2-1 A 1-1 (agg W 3-2)
2009/10 Porto Champions League group stage H 1-0 A 1-0
2011/12 Benfica Champions League quarter-final A 1-0 H 2-1 (agg W 3-1)


 

Chelsea's last 10 years in Europe
2002/03 - UEFA Cup - first round
2003/04 - Champions League - semi-final
2004/05 - Champions League - semi-final
2005/06 - Champions League - round of 16
2006/07 - Champions League - semi-final
2007/08 - Champions League - runners-up
2008/09 - Champions League - semi-final
2009/10 - Champions League - round of 16
2010/11 - Champions League - quarter-final
2011/12 - Champions League - winners

 

2012/13 Europa League results
Round of 32
Feb 14 Sparta Prague (a) W 1-0
Feb 21 Sparta Prague (h) D 1-1
Round of 16
Mar 7 Steaua Bucharest (a) L 0-1
Mar 14 Steaua Bucharest (h) W 3-1
Quarter-final
Apr 4 Rubin Kazan (h) W 3-1
Apr 11 Rubin Kazan (a) L 2-3
Semi-final
Apr 25 Basel (a) W 2-1
May 2 Basel (h) W 3-1



Europa League scorers
Torres 5, Moses 4, D Luiz 2, Hazard 1, Mata 1, Oscar 1, Terry 1. Total 15

 

Last six domestic results
Apr 17 Fulham (a) W 3-0
Apr 21 Liverpool (a) D 2-2
Apr 28   Swansea (h) W 2-0
May 5 Manchester United (a) W 1-0
May 8 Tottenham (h) D 2-2
May 11 Aston Villa (a) W 2-1

 

MILESTONES
Chelsea have scored 143 goals this season - a club record beating 142 scored in 2009/10.

If selected, Ramires will play his 150th Chelsea game and Ashley Cole will make his 300th start in a blue shirt as well as playing his 50th game of the season.


BENFICA STATS
Founded
1904

Major honours
32 league titles, last in 2010
24 Portuguese FA Cups, last in 2004
4 Portuguese League Cups, last in 2012
4 Portuguese Super Cups, last in 2005
2 European Cups in 1961 and 1962

 

Last ten league seasons
2002/03 - 2nd
2003/04 - 2nd
2004/05 - 1st
2005/06 - 3rd
2006/07 - 3rd
2007/08 - 4th
2008/09 - 3rd
2009/10 - 1st
2010/11 - 2nd
2011/12 - 2nd


Benfica have appeared in eight previous European finals. They have lost the last six since lifting a trophy against Real Madrid in Amsterdam at the old Olympisch Stadium 51 years ago.

 

1960/61 EC Barcelona in Bern W 3-2
1961/62 EC Real Madrid in Amsterdam W 5-3
1962/63 EC AC Milan at Wembley L 1-2
1964/65 EC Inter Milan in Milan L 0-1
1967/68 EC Manchester Utd at Wembley L 1-4*
1982/83 UC Anderlecht H L 0-1 A D 1-1 (agg L 1-2)
1987/88 EC PSV Eindhoven inStuttgart D 0-0**
1989/90 EC AC Milan in Vienna L 0-1
* after extra time**lost on penalties after extra time

UC=UEFA Cup EC=European Cup


Apart from Chelsea last season, Benfica have met London opposition twice before in the European Cup and won both times, against Tottenham in 1961/62 semi-finals and Arsenal in the 1991/92 second round.

Benfica's record against English teams is 10 wins, five draws and 16 defeats.

They lost the 1968 European Cup final 4-1 to Manchester United at Wembley.

Lima (18) and Oscar Cardozo (16) are the Portuguese Liga's second and third highest scorers. Porto's Jackson Martinez has scored 25.

Benfica were Amsterdam Tournament winners in July 2009 at the Amsterdam ArenA. They beat Sunderland 2-0, then hosts Ajax 3-2 - David Luiz netting what would prove the winner in the 55th minute.

Benfica have won 22 of their 29 domestic and European matches since the beginning of the year. Their two defeats in that time have come in the last five games.

Benfica's record against English teams in Europe


Benfica's record against English teams
1961/62 Tottenham European Cup semi-final H 3-1 A 1-2 (agg W 4-3)
1965/66 Man Utd European Cup quarter-final A 2-3 H 1-5 (agg L 3-8)
1967/68 Man Utd European Cup final N 1-4 aet
1972/73 Derby European Cup second round A 0-3 H 0-0 (agg L 0-3)
1977/78 Liverpool European Cup quarter-final H 1-2 A 1-4 (agg L 2-6)
1983/84 Liverpool European Cup quarter-final A 0-1 H 1-4 (agg L 1-5)
1984/85 Liverpool European Cup second round A 1-3 H 1-0 (agg L 2-3)
1991/92 Arsenal European Cup second round H 1-1 A 3-1 (agg W 4-2)
2005/06 Man Utd Champions League group stage A 1-2 H 2-1
2005/06 Liverpool Champions League round of 16 H 1-0 A 2-0 (agg W 3-0)
2006/07 Man Utd Champions League group stage H 0-1 A 1-3
2009/10 Everton Europa League group stage H 5-0 A 2-0
2009/10 Liverpool Europa League quarter-final H 2-1 A 1-4 (agg L 3-5)
2011/12 Man Utd Champions League group stage H 1-1 A 2-2
2011/12 Chelsea Champions League quarter-final H 0-1 A 1-2 (agg L 1-3)
2012/13 Newcastle Europa League quarter-final H 3-1 A 1-1 (agg W 4-2)



Ten-year European record
2002/03 - Did not qualify
2003/04 - UEFA Cup fourth round (having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round)
2004/05 - UEFA Cup round of 32 (having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round)
2005/06 - Champions League quarter-finals
2006/07 - UEFA Cup quarter-finals (having transferred from the Champions League group stage)
2007/08 - UEFA Cup round of 16 (having transferred from the Champions League group stage)
2008/09 - UEFA Cup group stage
2009/10 - Europa League quarter-finals
2010/11 - Europa League semi-finals (having transferred from the Champions League group stage)
2011/12 - Champions League quarter-finals

 

2012/13 Europa League results
Round of 32
Feb 14 Bayer Leverkusen (a) W 1-0
Feb 21 Bayer Leverkusen (h) W 2-1
Round of 16
Mar 7 Bordeaux (h) W 1-0
Mar 14 Bordeaux (a) W 3-2
Quarter-final
Apr 4 Newcastle (h) W 3-1
Apr 11 Newcastle (a) D 1-1
Semi-final
Apr 25 Fenerbahçe (a) L 0-1
May 2 Fenerbahçe (h) W 3-1

 

Europa League scorers
O Cardozo 6 (1 pen), Gaitán 1, Jardel 1, John 1, Lima 1, Matić 1, Rodrigo 1, Salvio 1, own goal 1. Total 14

 

PMB

 

Last six domestic results
Apr 7 Olhanense (a) W 2-0
Apr 15 Paços de Ferreira (Cup h) D 1-1
Apr 21 Sporting Lisbon (h) W 2-0
Apr 29 Maritimo (a) W 2-1
May 6 Estoril-Praia (h) D 1-1
May 12 Porto (a) L 1-2




2012/13 Portuguese Liga top 5
Pld Gd Pts
1 Porto 29 +54 75
2 Benfica 29 +55 74
3 Paços de Ferreira 29 +15 54
4 Sporting Braga 29 +15 49
5 Estoril 29 +8 42

 

THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Referee Björn Kuipers, his two assistant referees and two additional assistant referees are all from host country the Netherlands. This will be his fourth Chelsea match and three previous UEFA Champions League games, all away, ended in two wins (Žilina and Copenhagen) and a draw (Atlético).


OTHERWISE ENGAGED
Benfica's Maxi Pereira is the only suspended player on either side.

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