Europa League final gives Chelsea and Benfica opportunity to shine | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 15.05.2013
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Europa League final gives Chelsea and Benfica opportunity to shine

In the Europa League final, Chelsea's interim boss hopes to end his job on a high as Benfica try to take home winning international silverware for the first time in decades.

Benfica come into Wednesday night's game on the back of a defeat by FC Porto that could cost them the league title. It is their first international final since losing to Milan by a single goal in the European Cup final in 1990.

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez hopes to end his interim job as coach with a trophy at the Amsterdam Arena by beating the side from Portugal. But he has team injury problems standing in his way.

Belgian forward Eden Hazard sits out the game with a hamstring injury. "It's a massive blow because the balance of the team is right with Hazard in there," former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder Nigel Spackman told Reuters. "We've seen him this season go past people with his pace, score goals, make goals and he will be a big, big miss for Chelsea."

The 22-year-old Hazard, signed from French side Lille last June, scored 13 goals in his first season with the London club.

"Rafa is likely to have to push Brazilian Ramires further forward to compensate for Hazard's loss," Spackman explained. "That will mean Frank Lampard playing alongside David Luiz in the holding roles... and it reduces Rafa's options in the middle of the park."

A further blow to Benitez's plans was the sight of club captain John Terry picking up an ankle injury during a domestic game against Aston Villa on Saturday. Terry, 32, was seen hobbling on a pre-match stroll with the team on Wednesday. He was suspended for Chelsea's Champions League final last season. Lampard is expected to captain the side in Terry's absence.

For Chelsea, the match is a chance to become the first team to hold the Europa League and Champions League titles at the same time - if only for 10 days.

Benfica hope to end a 51-year wait for a major European trophy. They have played six consecutive continental finals since 1963 without winning one. But Amsterdam was the scene of their last European Cup triumph. For inspiration, the Lisbon team have brought former player Eusebio with them. He scored the two decisive goals in the 5-3 victory over Real Madrid all those decades ago.

Earlier this week Sven-Goran Eriksson, who had two spells in charge of Benfica, described the Portuguese side as a more technically gifted team than Chelsea.

The front page of Portuguese daily A Bola on Wednesday called on Benfica to 'Make History.' Former players Ramires and David Luiz now play for Chelsea.

Benfica captain Luisao says his side will have no trouble focusing on Wednesday's game: "We had a very important match on Saturday but every game has been a final in recent weeks," the Brazilian said.

Amsterdam has deployed hundreds of extra police for the match. City Hall said preventative searches had been permitted due to "recent confrontations between hardcore Ajax fans and visiting British fans."

jm/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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