Chelsea will square off against Swiss powerhouse FC Basel on Thursday with a chance to take place in this year's Europa League final.
Basel recently rested their starters in their 3-0 home loss to FC Luzern. Basel rested both of their top Europa League goal-scorers, Marco Streller and Fabian Schär who have both netted four goals this campaign. Additionally, Mohamed Salah didn't come in for Basel until the 63rd minute and had very little impact on the game. Salah, who recently joined Basel over the summer, is tied in second place with Inter Milan's Freddy Guarin for most assists this campaign.
Basel has built a reputation in Europe as giant killers. During the 2002-03 Champions League campaign, Basel were in a group with Valencia, Liverpool and Spartak Moscow. Basel finished second, one point ahead of a Liverpool team that consisted of, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, John Arne Riise, and Dietmar Hamann. Since the 2000-01 European season, Basel has been involved in European competition.
As of late, Basel has had an upper hand on English teams. Last year, Basel was drawn in the same Champions League group as Manchester United. As a result, Basel took four points out of a possible six and eliminated the English giants in the previous Champions league. That including a thrilling come from behind 3-3 draw at Old Trafford and a 2-1 win on the last day of the group stages.
This year Basel was drawn in the Europa League quarterfinals against Tottenham Hotspur. In the first leg at White Hart Lane, Basel scored two goals in the first half and got off to a cracking start before Tottenham got two goals back and tied the game. T
ottenham also lost star forward Gareth Bale in that game as he injured his ankle. On the return leg it was another 2-2 draw and Basel converted all of their penalties in the shootout to defeat Tottenham and advance to the semi-finals.
Basel has a solid squad as both young and old talent make up the team. Basel goal keeper Yann Sommer has attracted a lot of interest throughout top European leagues. In front of him he has a rock of a centre-back named Aleksandar Dragovic. Dragovic is an Austrian International who is on the watch list of many English clubs including Arsenal and Everton.
Basel’s midfield and attack has also made them a threat. Another player who has attracted interest throughout Europe is midfielder Valentin Stocker. Stocker has been at the club since 2005 and has been a key component to the success of their midfield. Teams such as Aston Villa, Lyon and even Bayern Munich have been keeping an eye out for the midfielder whose contract runs out in 2014.
Lastly, Basel has experienced strikers up front. Mainly, Marco Streller. Streller is 31-years-old but has shown no sign of ageing in this tournament as he is Basel`s joint top scorer. Streller who was with the Swiss National team from 2003-2011 netted 12 goals in 37 games for his country.
Despite the game being at home, Chelsea should be fully aware of Basel and what they bring. Basel will be looking to leave London with an upset and their ticket to Amsterdam.
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