By DAN KARELL
There may be a different manager in charge but Chelsea are in a familiar position come Thursday night.
Rafael Benitez’s club are 90 minutes away from making a second-straight European cup final, and they’ll welcome Swiss side FC Basel to Stamford Bridge for the second-leg of the Europa League semifinals.
Chelsea won the first leg 2-1, with a free-kick goal in the 94th minute from defender David Luiz giving last year’s Champions League winners a second away-goal and a massive advantage heading into the second match.
Portuguese leaders Benfica on the other hand are looking to reverse last Thursday’s 1-0 defeat to Fenerbahce to make their first Europa League final since 1983, when it was still called the UEFA Cup.
Jorge Jesus’ team shouldn’t be too concerned, as Benfica have lost only one match at home this season, a 2-0 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League group stage. Since the start of 2013, they’ve taken the maximum points at the Estadio da Luz on all but two occasions.
Fenerbahce too are on strong form, having lost just twice since the start of March in all competitions, meaning that the match could go any direction once the game begins.
If you will be watching today’s matches, please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions and some play-by-play in the comments section below.
Enjoy the action (and read our closer look at today’s matches after the jump):
CHELSEA vs. FC BASEL
3:05pm, Fox Soccer Channel
Players to Watch: CHELSEA – Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres, David Luiz; FC BASEL – Valentin Stocker, Marco Streller, Mohamed Salah, Alex Frei.
Quick Kicks: Ashley Cole is out for Chelsea due to suspension so Ryan Bertrand will likely be starting at left back. Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres were rested for last Sunday’s game against Swansea. Ramires is struggling with a leg injury so there is a chance that John Obi Mikel could take his place in the lineup. Both Strellar and Schär missed Basel’s match last Sunday due to nagging injuries, but are expected to be fit.
BENFICA vs. FENERBAHCE
3:05pm, Fox Soccer Plus
Players to Watch: BENFICA – Oscar Cardozo, Nicolas Gaitan, Nemanja Matic, Lima; FENERBAHCE – Moussa Sow, Dirk Kuyt, Cristian Baroni, Caner Erkin.
Quick Kicks: Benfica will be without Ola John due to a suspension for yellow-card accumulation, and Gaitan is a game-time decision after missing last Monday’s league match at CS Maritimo. For the Turkish side, they’ll be without key players Pierre Webo and Mehmet Topal due to suspension and Portugal international midfielder Raul Meireles is out with a thigh injury.