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  • Chelsea v FC Basel, Europa League preview

Attack is the way forward for Mata, but calls for focus

ESPN staff
May 2, 2013


Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata has warned his team-mates not to spurn a strong advantage in the second leg of their semi-final Europa League tie against FC Basel on Thursday.

The Blues host their Swiss opponents at Stamford Bridge with a one-goal lead and two valuable away goals from the first leg, but Mata believes Rafa Benitez's side can ill afford to rely on defence and must attack a desperate Basel.

"It's going to be a dangerous game," Mata said. "Even though we have two goals away, a great result, it's that kind of game that can be very risky.

"If we don't go into the game thinking about winning, thinking about defending well, thinking about trying to win again, it's going to be difficult. We still know we have to fight if we're going to be in the final.

"We got a great result in Switzerland, but now we have to play another 90 minutes and I'm sure they're not going to give up. They're a team who try until the end. It will be tough, for sure."

Basel scored two important away goals against Tottenham in the quarter-finals to aid their progression and Chelsea's interim manager Benitez is concerned about his players looking ahead to the final.

"We have an opportunity, but my concern is we'll be thinking we're in the final - it's not the case," Benitez said. "We'll play against a very good team, a team that has scored goals away, so everybody has to realise it will be tough, it will be difficult.

"I think they will come trying to score. They did it against Tottenham. I'm sure they will be offensive, they will push. They will try to score because it's the only way for them to qualify.

"I am concerned, but I'm not afraid. We know it's a dangerous team. We're so close to the final we have to be really focused, concentrated and not make mistakes. I have a lot of confidence in my players."

Although defending their Champions League title was the main priority for Chelsea, Mata believes success in the Europa League can provide a boost ahead of next year's competition in the top flight and help remedy the woes of exiting at the group stage this season.

"Our aims have to be winning this trophy and obviously being in the Champions League next season," Mata added. "Chelsea is a club which deserves to be in the Champions League every season. We can do it. If we play like we've been playing, all together, I think we can do both.

"Every time I watch a game on the TV from the Champions League I think it's a shame. But, on the other hand, I'd rather be positive and think we have the chance to win another trophy, as we did last season. Now we have another chance.

"For the team and for the club it's very important to have the chance to be in another European final. After winning the Champions League last season we have the chance to be in another final, trying to win another trophy, which will be new for the club. It means a lot for the club, for the supporters, for the players."

One to watch

After scoring against Swansea Frank Lampard is now just one goal away from equalling Bobby Tambling's record haul of 202 goals for the Blues. His contribution from the Chelsea midfield will be vital. The 34-year-old can draw on a wealth of European experience to stop Basel from scoring two away goals on English soil; something they have already achieved this season, despite never winning on English soil.

With Mata having issued a warning to his team-mates, Chelsea will need a cool head to dictate the pace of play; particularly at home. While Eden Hazard can produce magic to unlock the Basel defence, Lampard will be solely focused on seeing his side through.

David Luiz is a caution away from suspension, but can Chelsea cope without his midfield influence? © PA Photos
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Key battle

Basel have nothing to lose in their hope of qualification to the final, so Rafael Benitez has a big decision to make when it comes to team selection. Four Chelsea players are one yellow card away from suspension, including last week's injury-time hero David Luiz.

The Brazilian has enjoyed an impressive spell lately in the Chelsea engine room, and if rested, the Blues may rue missing his ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Basel are sweating on the fitness of striker Marco Streller, but will no doubt do everything they can to ensure that he starts on the pitch. Chelsea cannot afford to be complacent as they look to win their second European trophy in consecutive seasons, which will begin with the side that boss Benitez selects.

If Luiz is rested, that could well open the door for the Swiss side.

Team news

Chelsea remain without Ashley Cole, who is suspended, while Oriol Romeu is struggling with a knee injury. Striker Demba Ba is ineligible and Ramires picked up a slight knock on Premier League duty at the weekend.

Ramires, Luiz, Ryan Bertrand and John Obi Mikel are all on a yellow card for the Blues and could be rested.

Aleksandar Dragovic is suspended for the Swiss side, while coach Murat Yakin has confirmed he will wait on the fitness of Marco Streller.

Prediction and bet

Benitez faces a tough decision on team selection for Thursday night, with four key players risking suspension from the final should they make it but he will be assured in the knowledge that Basel have never won in England.

With Lampard gracing the headlines at the weekend, the midfielder is looking for that all-important goal to equal the club record, while two will see him break it. With that considered, bet365 offer 11/1 on Lampard to score ta brace or better and write himself into the Stamford Bridge history books.

Their firm showing against an out-of-sorts Swansea on Sunday is sure to give the Blues plenty of confidence, while tasting Champions League success last season gives them the necessary experience to see out the tie; an anytime scorecast of Chelsea to win 3-1 and Lampard to score in the match returns 16/1 with the company.

Prediction: 3-1

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