The Blues have a 1-0 lead heading into the deciding leg at home. Will they end up booking their place in the semi-finals?
It’s been a terrific turnaround for a team that was in great turmoil earlier on in the season.
There seems to be a renewed sense of squad spirit under Roberto Di Matteo and the results have been much more positive because of it.
Chelsea was able to grab a crucial away goal and hold a cleansheet as well in a 1-0 victory over in Portugal (a little better than I predicted). Benfica had a ton of chances to find the back of the net, but Petr Cech was oustanding and the Blues stood firm.
Salamon Kalou’s goal in the second half had put the Blues that much closer to a last four spot in the biggest European competition.
Blues favored in return leg
For the second leg, Chelsea is favored at -145 odds at Pinnacle to win straight up, whilte Benfica can be backed anywhere from from +420 to +481 in the soccer odds. A draw, which would see the Blues advance, is listed around the +300 area.
Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring before a brace from Branislav Ivanovic and a fourth for good measure from Fernando Torres wrapped up the three points for Chelsea. It was the striker’s first Premier League goal in close to six months.
Though the Blues are tied for fifth in the league, they’re five points back of both Arsenal and Tottenham and there’s plenty of time left for them to make a late charge and squeak into the Champions League spots for next season.
Benfica also grabbed a domestic win over the weekend, beating Sporting Braga 2-1 in what was a crucial game in the title race. Axel Witsel converted a penalty and Brunco Cesar scored the winner in stoppage time to give the hosts the victory.
A return to the winning side will serve the Portuguese outfit well, but overturning a deficit in London is going to be a huge ask.
Hold on Chelsea!
Didier Drogba is sidelined with a toe injury, meaning Torres is likely to get another start. He definitely appears to be his old self again considering he’s had a massive effect on pretty much all of Chelsea’s most recent games.
Former Benfica defender David Luiz is also a doubt after limping off against Villa over the weekend. Gary Cahill, who’s been solid since his transfer from Bolton, is the prime candidate to fill in on defense.
The Blues have won every one of their Champions League games at Stamford Bridge this term, conceding only goal in the process. That adds to the daunting task that lay ahead for Benfica.
Di Matteo has been smart with the way he’s managed this team since he took over the reigns, giving various players rest when needed. He seems to have a great pulse on his squad and I believe the team he picks this Wednesday will do enough to capture a spot in the Champions League semi-finals.