“One team in Europe, There’s only one team in Europe” Expect that to be heard tonight as the Champions League is back on stage when Chelsea travel to Lisbon and take on Benfica at the Estadio Da Luz.
When the draw was announced, it wasn’t a tie that struck fear into the hearts of many, even Didier Drogba appeared to be somewhat relieved, but the Portuguese giants should not be taken lightly. Their record at home in Europe is testament to their players’ ability and skill, undefeated in their last 10 matches at their home ground they will go into the game full of confidence. Benfica knocked Zenit St. Petersburg out of the last 16 in winning the tie 4-3 on aggregate, whilst Chelsea provided the tie of the last round, in a brilliant comeback against Napoli to win 5-4.
Not only is the task difficult due to Benfica’s home record, but Chelsea’s away record in the knockout phase of the Champions League is average at best. The away record this season for The Blues is 2 losses and 2 draws, not the must inspiring form to take with you on your travels.
Benfica will look to make the most of their home advantage and use the talent at their disposal. In Oscar Cardozo they have one of Europe’s most underrated strikers, the Paraguayan has already netted 26 times this season and has a left foot that should be feared from anywhere on the pitch. The Argentinian duo of Nicolas Gaitan and Pablo Aimar are the skill players in midfield, their creativity is key to Benfica creating chances for Cardozo. The former is the leading player on the assist chart for this season’s Champions League and will look to add to his tally against what has at times been a susceptible Chelsea defence.
Chelsea’s lineup is less clear, there’s always multiple possibilities for every game. Although not having won an away game this season, the team has scored first in all their visits away from Stamford Bridge so they will look to do the same again tonight but will need to ensure not to concede after doing so. Brazilian duo David Luiz and Ramires return to Estadio Da Luz after being brought over from Benfica, whilst both have fond memories at the club they have let it be known that their loyalties now lie in West London. The venue is also a happy hunting ground for Frank Lampard who has never failed to score when he has played there. Scoring in all three of England’s games during Euro 2004.
To all those who have made the trip to Lisbon, have a safe journey and hopefully be able to witness a winning performance by Chelsea.