Back Chelsea to claim Euro glory

15May 2013

Europa Liga


Chelsea and Benfica are set to do battle in the Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena, and Kevin Hatchard thinks Rafa Benitez' side will lift the trophy.


Chelsea vs Benfica, Wed 19:45 BST, Live on ITV1

Match Odds: Chelsea 2.5, Benfica 3.2, the draw 3.4


Chelsea's interim boss Rafa Benitez insists he's led the club to a successful campaign, and if they win the Europa League trophy it will be tough to dispute the  Spaniard's assertion. Saturday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa sealed Champions League qualification for next season, with Frank Lampard finally breaking Bobby Tambling's  all-time goalscoring record, so all that remains is for the West Londoners to win a second major European trophy in two years.


Having dropped out of the Champions League at the group stage, Chelsea have gradually grown into this competition. The Blues needed a last-gasp goal to edge out Sparta  Prague in the last 32, and had to overturn a first-leg deficit against Steaua Bucharest in the last 16. They survived a late defensive collapse in Russia to overcome  quarter-final opponents Rubin Kazan, and FC Basel were beaten home and away in the semis.


Portuguese giants Benfica have reached their ninth European final, having also dropped out of the Champions League. I would argue that the Eagles have had a tougher  route to the final than Chelsea. Impressive German outfit Bayer Leverkusen were beaten home and away, as were Bordeaux in the last 16. Newcastle gave Jorge Jesus' men  a huge scare in the quarter-finals, moving to within a goal of progressing before Benfica landed the knockout blow. The semis against Fenerbahce were equally difficult  - Benfica lost the first leg 1-0 in Turkey, but turned the tie around with a 3-1 home win to book a trip to the Amsterdam Arena.


Chelsea are finishing the season strongly - they are unbeaten in their last eight matches, winning six of them. Their only draws in that period were at home to Spurs  and away to Liverpool. Benitez is sometimes unfairly labelled as a defensive coach, but under his tutelage Chelsea have clicked offensively in recent weeks. The Blues  have rattled in 17 goals in their last eight matches, and they have drawn a blank just once in their last 20 games in all competitions.


Former Benfica defender David Luiz is revelling in a new central midfield role - he scored a stunning long-range effort at Fulham last month, and he netted spectacular  strikes in both legs of the Europa League semi against FC Basel. He is a healthy 20.0 to be First Goalscorer, and 6.0 in the To Score market.


Benfica's confidence has been knocked by a two-match winless run in the Portuguese league which has cost them top spot with a game to go. A 1-1 draw at home to Estoril  allowed rivals Porto to make up ground, and then Porto beat Benfica 2-1 with a stoppage-time winner to move a point clear at the top. It's difficult to know whether  such a catastrophic defeat will galvanise Benfica or damage their morale, but they do look to be running out of steam after a long season.


At least Benfica take solace from their explosive attack. Talismanic Paraguyan striker Oscar Cardozo has scored five goals in his last five Europa League games (he is  3.25 in the To Score market), and in the league he has rattled in 16 goals in 20 games. His fellow striker Eduardo Salvio has already won the Europa League twice with Atletico Madrid, and he has made more appearances in the competition (33) than any other player. Benfica have played 46 matches in all competitions, and they have only failed to score four times. Two of those games were against Barcelona.


Neither team has defended well of late - Benfica haven't kept a clean sheet for five games, while Chelsea looked fragile at the back in their last two games against  Aston Villa and Spurs. With two strong attacks on show, I like the look of Over 2.5 Goals at 2.12. Finals can be cagey affairs, but Chelsea are brimming with attacking talent, and I think they'll play on the front foot.


After missing the Champions League final through suspension, Chelsea club captain John Terry seems likely to miss this game with an ankle injury. A bigger blow is the  potential loss of elusive Belgian winger Eden Hazard, who has been terrific in recent weeks. If Hazard fails to recover from an ankle injury, his likely replacement  Victor Moses is at least in good form, having scored a goal in each of his last four Europa League appearances. Benfica are without full-back Maxi Pereira because of  suspension, but they welcome back Dutch winger Ola John from a ban.


Chelsea beat Benfica home and away in last season's Champions League quarter-finals, and I think the Blues will come out on top again. I have been really impressed by  their attacking play in the last couple of months, with Fernando Torres (five EL goals), Oscar and Juan Mata (six assists in European games) all sparkling at different  times. Former Benfica duo David Luiz and Ramires give real thrust from central midfield, and I suspect Benfica will struggle to contain them. With free-scoring players  like Frank Lampard likely to be on the bench, Chelsea have the opportunity to change things up if the game is tight in the latter stages, and if things get tough they  can draw on their experience of last season's Champions League final win. I think the price of 2.5 for the Chelsea victory is too good to miss.


Recommended Bets

Back Over 2.5 Goals at 2.12

Back Chelsea to win at 2.5



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Keywords: Euro glory, Chelsea, Benfica

Source: Betfair

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