Up until the Europa League came along, the European season of Chelsea wasn’t really something worth mentioning. Humiliated by Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup and winning only two matches out of six in the Champions League group stage. With Benfica coming up next as the stumbling block between a second consecutive European title, eyes turn to Ramires and David Luiz, who used to play for the Portuguese team before making the move to Stamford Bridge.
Ramires, 26, played with Benfica in only one season, guiding them to their last league title before another streak of Porto championships began. He was signed for €22 million, but took time before he began winning a place in the lineup, and until someone start realizing what his actual position his. He was instrumental with goals and his work ethic on the pitch last season, as Chelsea won both the FA Cup and the Champions League, as Di Matteo used him in a wider role than anyone did in the past, finding more use for his speed and finishing ability.
Luiz, 26, another Brazilian, is turning out to be the next great leader for Chelsea from the back. He arrived in 2011, six months after Ramires. Chelsea paid €25 million for the centre back, and after some inconsistent periods defensively, Luiz has emerged as a true leader and star for the team, often playing as a defensive midfielder, showing his gift for long range shooting and passing near the box.
The two played together at Benfica, winning a championship there. They still have former teammates and friends they’ll be facing on Wednesday, but old ties will mean nothing this time, as Rafa Benitez is hoping at least.
I have a lot of affection for Benfica when they are playing in their own competitions, but on the pitch I am a Chelsea player and I don’t want to think about Benfica or anybody else. Before the game you talk to everybody and joke with your friends, you wish them well because they are your opponents, but once you start playing your mind is only on winning the game, you don’t remember anything else. In this final I will be doing everything I can for Chelsea to win, and it’s easy to separate these feelings. Whoever is in your way, it doesn’t matter.
While some thought until this weekend that Benfica might be slight favorites to beat Chelsea, who haven’t looked too impressive on their way to the final this season, things have changed since Saturday. Benfica lost in the 91st minute to Porto, their first defeat of the season, which also means they’ll be missing out on the league title once again in the most cruel of fashions. The Europa League final doesn’t seem so interesting now that their main goal, winning back the league title, has been shattered and broken.
Benfica’s main power, like Chelsea, is a very talented attacking midfield, but have striker in much better form than what Chelsea have to present in Demba Ba and Fernando Torres. Chelsea are hoping that momentum and perceived talent advantage at certain will prove to be enough to secure the title, making Chelsea, for a few days, simultaneous champions of both the Champions League and the Europa League.