Chelsea have a chance of picking up European silverware for the second season in a row on Wednesday night when they face Benfica in the Europa League Final. Rafa Benitez's men cast Spurs-conquering Basel aside to book a place in the final and their safe passage to the Amsterdam Arena is testament to the job the Spaniard has done at Stamford Bridge under some pretty strenuous circumstances.
I actually think what Rafa Benitez has had to put up with from sections of the Chelsea support has been absolutely ridiculous. I can understand if people didn't want him there to start with, but he was obviously always going to be there until the end of this season and who's to say Chelsea wouldn't have done even better with the whole of the stadium behind the manager for the duration of his tenure? Some of the singing and chanting I've heard when covering Chelsea games even when they've been winning has been extraordinary and in no way constructive.
Not that Benitez will mind too much now. Wednesday night is a chance for him to put some more ink on his CV and add a third major European trophy to his record. Couple that with a finishing position comfortably back in the top four thus ensuring Champions League football yet again for the Blues means I think we can judge his appointment as quite a successful short-term solution. It's worked for both parties.
There is also more to thank Benitez for - this Chelsea side had a lot of new recruits last summer. Those players are now well bedded in for the next manager and have a lot Premier League experience under their belt. The transition of moving them into the Premier League has been pretty smooth.
As for the game itself, I think Chelsea have an excellent chance of lifting the trophy. Benfica suffered huge disappointment at the weekend after essentially losing the league title in injury time against Porto, and it may be hard for Jorge Jesus to lift his team after that against a strong, physical Chelsea side.
Chelsea, on the other hand, are in great form in a more competitive league -seven games undefeated domestically which included a superb win at Old Trafford means they'll be high on confidence and there'll be more than a few memories of last year's Champions League triumph still swirling around the players' heads which could also prove invaluable.
I think this will be a tight game, finals generally are, and I can see both teams scoring within 90 minutes, something that's available to back at 1.814/5. Benfica have good ability going forward and they've scored 74 goals domestically this season as well as notching quite a few on the way to the Amsterdam. We know all about Chelsea's potency with those three attacking players off the central striker as well as midfielders like Lampard that can weigh in when needed, so I think that's a good bet.
As for picking a winner, I fancy Chelsea to just nick it. 2-1 looks a great price at 11.010/1, so I'll be on that as well.
Back Both Teams to Score at 1.814/5
Back Chelsea to win 2-1 at 11.010/1