All the talk between Chelsea player about who will be the one, Frank Lampard or John Terry, to lift the trophy should they beat Benfica in the Europa League final usually brings with it big loads of bad luck, but seeing how the Portuguese seemed like a broken team after their shattering 91st minute loss against Porto, maybe even bad luck won’t stop Chelsea from adding another European trophy to their cabinet at Stamford Bridge.
Before Saturday, there were plenty who thought Benfica might be entering the match as favorites, despite the names in front of them. Chelsea haven’t looked too impressive in the competition so far, while Benfica have been playing well, sometimes even excitingly so, at both the Europa League and the Primeira Liga. But one goal from Kelvin changed everything, and now, even if Pablo Aimar said he thinks this is the worst Chelsea side during the Abramovich era, it’s quite easy to see who is the underdog.
Because even if Chelsea are missing Eden Hazard, that doesn’t necessarily mess up their plans. It just means Rafa Benitez can use Victor Moses on the wing instead of having all three of his “talents” playing together behind Fernando Torres. While the Spaniard hasn’t been able to find the net in the Premier League since December, he has done very well in Europe this season, scoring 8 goals in 15 matches.
For Benfica, who will be playing without Maxi Pereira, who is very hard to replace in both his defending and overall work rate on the wing. This might give Victor Moses, depending on which side Benitez places him on, a chance to run a bit more freely than initially expected, and also means that either Matic or Enzo Perez will be forced to be busy watching him.
Benfica might opt to start with both Lima and Oscar Cardozo, unlike the cautious approach Jorge Jesus took at the Dragao and eventually paid for. The real key for Benfica’s ability is Nicolas Gaitan and the kind of football he produces on the day, and especially how he links up with Salvio on the right side. If Chelsea manage to prevent the two of the overloading certain areas of the pitch, which also gives more space for Matic to push forward, Benfica will really struggle producing decent football.
Predictions – Chelsea are missing Eden Hazard, not to mention John Terry, probably missing another final, which might be better for Chelsea, who are simply a better team without him. On normal conditions, Benfica are the better side, but it’s hard to say just how affected they are from their loss at Porto, and how it will turn into motivation for them. Chelsea are in better form, and a lot more relaxed going into the match. They’ll probably also end up holding the trophy in the end.