Picking the Ideal Chelsea Starting XI to Beat Basel

Joe KrishnanContributor IMay 1, 2013

Picking the Ideal Chelsea Starting XI to Beat Basel

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    Chelsea go into their Europa League semifinal clash with FC Basel on May 2 knowing that they will progress to the final if they manage to avoid defeat.

    But they will need to guard against complacency if they are to reach their second consecutive European final.

    The Blues hold a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at St. Jakob-Park. This was where a last-gasp winner from David Luiz ensured the West London club traveled back to England with one foot in the final after a controversial penalty gave Basel a way back into the tie.

    And their interim manager Rafa Benitez will look to instill the composure and motivation required to guide his side to the Amsterdam Arena next month. Although, Benitez will also be wary of the impressive Swiss side since they have already knocked Tottenham out of the competition.

    Murat Yakin's side have nothing to lose having narrowly missed out on a draw in the first leg. It is expected that the young coach will look to grab an early goal to put some pressure on Chelsea.

    This matchup promises to be an exciting tie and one which the Blues should win comfortably. Let's take a look at how they might line up.

GK: Petr Cech

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    You get the feeling that because Petr Cech has won so much during his eight years at Chelsea, he may struggle to motivate himself to perform to the highest level.

    But that's simply not the case.

    Cech oozes professionalism and is an excellent example to follow—both on and off the pitch. And despite seeing nine managers pass through the doors at Stamford Bridge, the former Rennes stopper has remained a constant in the Chelsea side.

    Even at 30 years of age, the Czech Republic international is displaying some excellent performances and showing no signs of decline. And being handed a new contract last year was an indicator of that despite the rise of young star Thibaut Courtois.

    To remove the 6'5" keeper from the Blues' starting lineup would be illogical. With Cech between the posts, Rafa Benitez can rest assured knowing it will take something special from Basel to get past him.

RB: Cesar Azpilicueta

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    The rise of Cesar Azpilicueta in such a short time at Chelsea has been a joy to watch, and his performance up against the devious Philippe Coutinho was something to be admired.

    If there were any doubts about whether the Pamplona-born right-back could make an impact in his debut season, the Spain international has certainly put them to bed.

    After dislodging Branislav Ivanovic from the full-back role, Azpilicueta's surging runs have been useful for the Blues—especially with him producing four assists in all competitions.

    Azpilicueta may have gone about his business quietly but the £7 million summer signing is beginning to adapt to the Premier League and his Chelsea teammates.

    Basel will need their left-winger Valentin Stocker to peg the Spaniard back, or there may be some devastating consequences.

CB: David Luiz

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    David Luiz is fast-becoming one of the key figures at Stamford Bridge, and the Blues will need to keep the 26-year-old in the lineup if they want to keep him happy.

    With Barcelona rumoured to be interested in bringing Luiz to the Camp Nou, Chelsea will need to ensure that the Brazilian is content to stay in West London by selecting him on a regular basis.

    To be fair to Rafa Benitez, he has chosen Luiz fairly regularly during his time in charge. And with the combination of aerial and technicality ability that Luiz has, he's somewhat hard to ignore.

    In addition, the leadership he provides along with John Terry at the back is essential to organizing the defense. Despite Luiz sometimes being caught out of position, he is now viewed as a vital part of the team.

    Whether in defense or midfield, you can count on  Luiz to shine.

CB: John Terry

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    It seems that, after a much-publicized falling out with interim manager Rafa Benitez, John Terry is finally enjoying his football again. 

    Terry has started the last two games against Swansea and Basel. It appears that after a period of uncertainty with his future brought into question, the 32-year-old has responded by helping galvanize the team into challenging for honors.

    The club captain is seen as a massive influence at Chelsea and he lives for the big occasions. So to have him in the lineup for the semifinal of the Europa League is essential.

    Additionally, while it is not the Champions League, Terry will be desperate to play in another European final to erase the agony of the 2008 Champions League Final in Moscow.

    And of course missing last season's triumph through suspension.

    This opportunity may not come calling again for the club's icon. So his ability to keep his teammates' heads level means that starting him against Basel would be a necessity for Benitez.

LB: Ryan Bertrand

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    After five years of spells out on loan, Ryan Bertrand must have felt his Chelsea career was coming to an end.

    But since Ashley Cole's injuries and Bertrand becoming the first player to make his Champions League debut in the final, his role in the team has evolved in the last year or so.

    The England international is always a solid presence at full back. While he is not as attacking as Cole, his defensive duties will be useful for Rafa Benitez to utilize if required.

    Bertrand possesses pace, a stinging left foot and a decent cross from the left when he does surge forward. But if selected, he will be occupied with keeping a close eye on Mohamed Salah, the young Egyptian winger.

    It should be an interesting battle, but more importantly, one Bertrand can win.

MC: John Obi Mikel

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    His passing still requires work, and the very fact that he is yet to score a Premier League goal for the club means he should not be venturing forward.

    Instead it appears that what Mikel does best it sit deep in the holding midfield position. And with the Blues protecting their 2-1 advantage, Mikel could be a vital figure in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

    One of his main responsibilities against Basel will be breaking up the play and halting Fabian Frei from making an impact. The Swiss central midfielder is an attacking threat through the middle.

    Rafa Benitez will be hoping the Nigeria midfielder can sit deep and control the midfield, allowing Frank Lampard to push on further. Keeping composure on the ball and retaining possession will be his main task should be selected.

    And that is something Mikel does extremely well.

    The 26-year-old has come on leaps and bounds since his move from Lyn seven years ago, and has really matured as a player. He is also restraining himself from losing his temper like he has done previously.

    If he can do so again, he could be playing in his second consecutive European final.

MC: Frank Lampard

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    The case of Frank Lampard is a curious one.

    But the game of cat and mouse over a new deal is set to come to a close once the season ends.

    With no contract on the table for the Chelsea veteran, Lampard looks likely to leave the club despite his superb form for the Blues this season. The Independent, however, feel the club could be willing to climb down from their stubborn stance and hand Lampard a contract extension to aid the return of Jose Mourinho.

    Even in spite of this, the 34-year-old has shown his professionalism and desire to play with some magnificent performances. Lampard had an excellent cameo in the 2-0 victory over Swansea on Sunday.

    He is still a vital part of the Chelsea squad and stands in as captain when John Terry is out of the side. The former West Ham midfielder would be desperate to be part of the starting lineup on Thursday evening.

AMR: Victor Moses

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    After struggling to make much of an impact in the Premier League, it seems the Europa League is a perfect fit for Victor Moses.

    The 22-year-old has netted just once in 19 Premier League appearances for the Blues with the majority of his outings coming from the bench. 

    However, his performances in European competition have bore more fruit: four goals in just nine games. The consequence of his rise has resulted in either Eden Hazard or Oscar drop down to the bench.

    His goals against Rubin Kazan and Basel in the first leg have underlined how crucial his presence is in the lineup. 

    Considering the fact that the Blues are playing Manchester United on Sunday, it's likely that Moses will get the chance to add to his Europa League tally.

    And with his current form, you'd be foolish to bet against him doing just that.

AMC: Juan Mata

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    Among six players to be nominated for the PFA Player of the Year, Juan Mata may be wondering what more has to do to gain the coveted award.

    The first player to reach 10 goals and assists this season, the little Spaniard has displayed stunning form during his second season with the Blues. It's his presence in the free role behind the main striker which helps link together Chelsea's attacking play.

    It's frightening to think that at just 25 years of age, Mata has the potential to improve even further. And just like he did against Basel, his assists will be crucial against the Swiss side.

    Even despite their upcoming clash with Manchester United on Sunday, Rafa Benitez would be a brave man to leave the former Valencia midfielder out of the semifinal clash.

    Basel will be looking to close him down at all opportunities, but their efforts may prove to be in vain.

AML: Oscar

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    At just 21 years of age and in his first season with Chelsea, Oscar may look back on the current campaign as something of a success.

    Two goals in his last two Premier League games for the Blues has displayed that he is adapting to the way Chelsea play by linking up with his fellow attacking midfielders Juan Mata, Victor Moses and Eden Hazard.

    The Brazilian international has seen his stock rise since a £25 million move from Internacional last summer. And the former Sao Paulo trainee has impressed by showing his level of natural fitness. Oscar has made a whopping 59 appearances this season, scoring 11 goals and creating eight for his teammates.

    While he is not as celebrated as Hazard or Mata, Oscar's work rate is arguably the best out of the three. His fantastic strike against Swansea—and that wonderful goal against Juventus earlier in the season—show his ability to produce a moment of magic.

    Chelsea will be hoping he can do more of the same come Thursday evening against a spirited Basel side.

FC: Fernando Torres

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    Nineteen goals in all competitions shows that perhaps Fernando Torres is finally finding his feet at Stamford Bridge and living up to his hefty £50 million price tag. 

    The arrival of Rafa Benitez has certainly aided his rejuvenation at Stamford Bridge, and any doubters can take a look at recent strikes against Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan.

    One aspect that may give the Spain international the confidence to continue his improved form is that he is Chelsea's only recognized striker for the Europa League. Demba Ba is ineligible after his appearances for Newcastle.

    Basel managed to keep him fairly quiet during the first leg, with Aleksandar Dragovic given the task of man marking the 29-year-old. But if anything, it will make Torres more determined to score in the second leg and fire his side towards the Europa League final.

    He scored against Barcelona around this time a year ago, so who is to say he can't against a weaker Basel side?