How will Chelsea line-up in Switzerland on Thursday?
Rafa Benitez’s side will be hoping to bounce back after the disappointment of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool that saw them concede the equalizing goal in the 97th minute of the game.
That result—and two precious points dropped—means they sit fourth in the Premier League as they continue to pursue a place in the Champions League next season. And with every game now vital, Benitez will be mindful of the need to collect three points at home to Swansea City this coming Sunday when picking his team against Basel.
The Spaniard has so far shown the positive aspects of his rotation policy, using the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres to good effect of late.
In fact, the Blues have arguably resembled two teams since the turn of the year—one for the cup competitions and another for the Premier League.
We can expect plenty of changes from the weekend’s game on Thursday, but which team will prove most effective in continuing Chelsea’s fight on two fronts this season?
Bleacher Report takes a look at the probable Chelsea line-up against Basel.
It seems that with each passing game, Chelsea’s No. 1 grows in stature. He was excellent against Liverpool on Sunday, making a number of saves that ensured the Reds found it a frustrating afternoon in front of goal.
He was captain that day and rose to the occasion yet again, leading the team in a way one would expect of a man of his experience. He will probably be replaced as skipper by John Terry on Thursday, but Cech will remain one of the Blues’ most vital players in Switzerland, for sure.
With Ashley Cole out injured, Ryan Bertrand remains Chelsea’s only recognised left-back. He was on the receiving end of a heavy challenge from Daniel Sturridge on Sunday, but he did complete the game at Anfield and will be needed in Switzerland.
The Spaniard has proved a fine buy for the Blues this season and while his performance against Liverpool was not one of his best, he still impressed at Anfield as Chelsea drew 2-2. With Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz the preferred centre-backs of late, Azpilicueta can expect to start in Switzerland with his Serbian teammate afforded a rest ahead of Sunday.
He was missed in the closing stages against Liverpool at the weekend as Luis Suarez ghosted into the box to nod home the Reds’ late equalizer, but the man Chelsea fans call “JT” will certainly be reinstated on Thursday. Given the rotation policy at Stamford Bridge, it will probably mean him missing out on Sunday, but with a European final on the line, he will be vital against Basel.
The Brazilian has probably been Chelsea’s best defender this season, and with Gary Cahill still out with a knee injury, he will be likely to start alongside John Terry. He brings a good balance to Terry’s committed approach, with his ability on the ball often getting Chelsea moving forward from the back. With Fernando Torres set to start, watch out for Luiz’s long balls to the Spanish forward that have seen the Blues grab goals recently.
He’s still just two goals behind equalling Bobby Tambling’s Chelsea goalscoring record of 202, but will Frank Lampard make it? Time is running out on his Chelsea career with him expected to leave in the summer, so hopefully for the England international he will be among the goals in Switzerland to give him and his team a boost.
With so much riding on this game, it may be too much to throw the young Nathan Ake into proceedings, so expect Rafa Benitez to go with experience against FC Basel. John Mikel Obi may miss out due to the Swansea City clash on Sunday, but with Ramires in the side it gives the Blues excellent opportunity for a counter attack. Basel will look to get forward and cause Chelsea problems, so their Brazilian’s pace on the counter could prove an excellent tactic.
It’s been an encouraging debut season at Stamford Bridge for Victor Moses, and he has impressed in Europe. From battling relegation with Wigan Athletic this time last year, he’s now scoring vital goals in major European outings. He scored twice in the quarterfinal against Rubin Kazan and that’s enough to get him in the starting line-up against FC Basel.
With so few games remaining this season, but so much riding on those the Blues must play, Juan Mata has to start every game possible. He’s been Chelsea’s Player of the Year again this season and without him, the Blues do not function. The Spaniard is a fine talent, and while it will be tempting to give him a rest, this is a European semifinal, and Rafa Benitez must play him.
The Israeli has been preferred in the Europa League since he came back from a loan spell with West Ham United. By and large, he hasn’t disappointed, and with Oscar injured, he will prove useful on Thursday once more. He’s not at the same level to Chelsea’s other attacking options, but Benayoun has enough in his locker to do a good enough job in Switzerland.
With Demba Ba cup-tied, Fernando Torres is the Blues’ only recognised striker to face FC Basel. He will need to put in a better performance than he did at Anfield on Sunday, too, where he endured a tough return to former club Liverpool. That display was out of sorts with what we have seen recently, however, with the goals returning and a notable spring in the Spaniard’s step.
Hopefully for Chelsea’s sake, that’s the Torres we will see on Thursday evening.