Who: FC Basel 1893 vs. Chelsea FC
What: UEFA Europa League, semifinals (first leg)
Where: St. Jakob-Park, Basel, Switzerland
When: Thursday April 25, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 8:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET/12:05 p.m. PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer 2Go, ESPN Deportes (US), ITV 1, ITV HD, UTV (UK)
Radio: SiriusXM Sirius 94 (Internet 94), BBC Radio 5 Live
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic)
Three-Way Odds: FC Basel +175, Chelsea +140, Draw +235
Total: Over 2½ +105, Under 2½ -135
Alternate Odds: FC Basel Pick -130, Chelsea Pick Even
To Qualify (Advance): FC Basel +200, Chelsea -275
Decimal Odds: FC Basel 2.75, Chelsea 2.40, Draw 3.35
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 2.05, Under 2½ 1.74
Fractional Odds: FC Basel 9/5, Chelsea 27/20, Draw 12/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 1/1, Under 2½ 10/13
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
Odds To Win Europa League: Chelsea +125, FC Basel +800
(Benfica +175, Fenerbahce SK +550)
Source: sportsbook.com (Curacao, Netherlands Antilles)
Chelsea heads to Switzerland to face feisty FC Basel 1893 at St. Jakob-Park on Thursday in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League semifinal series.
And defending Swiss Super League champions Basel (16-9-3, first place) should provide quite the challenge for the Blues as the RotBlau are undefeated at home in the tournament this season and eliminated Tottenham Hotspur in the quarterfinals, leaving Chelsea as the only English Premier League club still alive of the eight teams remaining in UEFA's two renowned tournaments.
One thing the Blues will have going for them here is that Basel legend Alexander Frei actually played his last game for the club on April 14 in a 3-1 victory over FC Zurich where he appropriately scored on a free kick.
The 33-year-old Swiss legend retired after the game and is now the new sports director for FC Luzerne.
Basel, the only reigning domestic league champions left in the competition—Portugal's Benfica and Turkey's Fenerbahce are meeting in the other semifinal—is coached by 38-year-old Murat Yakin, a former Swiss national who took over the club last October.
Yakin is looking to take upstart Basel—3-8-7 all-time against English opposition—to a UEFA final for the first time, which would also be a first for a club from Switzerland.
Yann Sommer will definitely start in goal for Basel, with Park Joo-Ho, Aleksandar Dragovic, Fabian Schar and Philipp Degen likely in the RotBlau back four, with Mohamed El-Nenny, Fabian Frei, Serey Die and the crafty Valentin Stocker in the midfield as the health of David Degen—Philipp's twin brother—is still a question.
Up front, Basel will provide some danger for the European champions and will likely have Mohamed Salah and the oh-so dangerous Marco Streller on the attack in its starting XI.
Chelsea (18-8-7, third place) and interim manager Rafael Benitez must head into Thursday's game a bit freaked out after having to settle for a 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday in a match marked by an extremely late tying goal at the 97-minute mark by the Reds and the now infamous Bite Heard 'Round The World of Branislav Ivanovic's arm by Luis Suarez.
According to a report in Tuesday's Guardian, the Blues' Gary Cahill (knee) will likely travel with the club while fellow defender Ashley Cole (hamstring) will likely stay in London and get the nod in Sunday's crucial league match against Swansea City at Stamford Bridge.
As almost always, Petr Cech will start in goal for Chelsea with Ryan Bertrand likely deputizing for Cole at left-back, captain John Terry and either Cahill or more likely Ivanovic or David Luiz at the two center-back spots and Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back.
In central midfield, Ramires and either John Obi Mikel or Frank Lampard should get the nod for the Blues, with Juan Mata, Victor Moses and either Yossi Benayoun or Eden Hazard in the advanced midfield as Oscar continues his to recovery from a mild groin strain suffered against Liverpool.
At striker, Benitez will have to go with Fernando Torres with Demba Ba being cup-tied, so both Torres—who has actually played much better in international competitions—and Moses, if in, will need to produce offensively for Chelsea in Switzerland.
What will end up being important for Uncle Roman's Flying Circus, besides trying to win on the road in an extremely hostile environment, will be scoring a couple of road goals for the aggregate scoreline.
This will be the Blues' third straight game away from home, and they have lost their last two road games in European play. So for Chelsea to even get to the point where it can try to snag its first piece of silverware after seven attempts this year will take a massive team effort.
In the latest UEFA rankings, Chelsea moved up a notch to No. 4 with Basel checking in at No. 33; don't fool yourself, Blues fans, this Basel squad is dangerous at home and will be inspired to win possibly one of the biggest matches in the club's storied 120-year history.
It will be the first meeting between the two sides, and with so much at stake with Basel knowing it has to return to West London a week later on May 2 for the second leg, the pace should be fast and furious, and both teams should each have a goal by halftime.
To me, Chelsea seems to play better with an air of desperation about it, and if the defense can stifle Streller, Salah and Stocker—and Mata, Hazard, Moses and Torres can find a way to score at least two goals—the Blues should find a way to either earn a draw or beat FCB and head home in a very strong position in the series.
But with an undefeated mark at home in Swiss league play (11-3-0), just one home loss all season at St. Jakob-Park—against CFR Cluj in the Champions League—and a packed stadium intent on upsetting the almighty Chelsea, the Blues will certainly need a little luck in this glorious Swiss theater.
Bets: Chelsea Pick -130, Over 2½ +105
Prediction: Chelsea 3 FC Basel 2
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