Europa League draw: Chelsea and Benfica kept apart
Having disposed of Tottenham on penalties the previous evening Basel will smell the blood of more Englishmen (along with their Belgian, Spanish, Serbian, Czech, Senegalese and Nigerian colleagues) after they were drawn against Chelsea in the Europa League semi finals – Fenerbahce will play Benfica in the former’s first ever European semi final. Coral have gone 5/4 favourites about Stamford Bridge’s finest lifting the continental consolation prize, with Benfica at 9/5 and their Turkish and Swiss adversaries 6/1 and 7/1 respectively.
Chelsea ware 2/5 favourites to qualify from their tie with Basel, whose history of knocking English teams out of Europe goes back further than the last round, with St Jakob Park outfit’s victory over Manchester United in the 2011/12 Champions League groups dumping Rooney and Co. into the Europa League.
Murat Yakin’s Swiss champions will hold no secrets from Chelsea having been seen to such excellent effect against Spurs and with the second leg of their tie at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will be desperately disappointed not to make their second European final in as many seasons. The Blues have won nine of their last 10 at Stamford Bridge.
Fenerbahce have hit a rich vein of form since the end of January losing just twice in 15 matches, with 10 of those results victories for Aykut Kocaman’s men meaning that despite being 1/2 favourites to qualify from their semi, Benfica will be kept honest.
However Benfica are in imperious form on both the domestic and European stages, tasting just defeat twice in 38 matches. They last lost in late October last year and they’ve developed a penchant for Bayern-esque away clean sheet keeping in the 14 games since that defeat, shutting out eight of the 14 teams they’ve visited since.
Should the two semi favourites progress to the final as expected, Chelsea will hold something of a psychological edge having beaten the Lisbon club home and away in last season’s Champions league. However whilst Rafa Benitez’s men have been frustratingly mercurial this term, Benfica have developed into a reliably unbeatable force and may be the better value for to lift the cup at 9/5.