Chelsea will be happy to face Tottenham's conquerors

Posted by Phil Lythell

Frank Lampard is delighted to make progress with Chelsea in the Europa LeagueGettyImagesFrank Lampard is delighted to make progress with Chelsea in the Europa League

With three strong opponents left in the hat, Chelsea were never going to be celebrating too much whomever they were drawn against in the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League. However, the tie with Basel is arguably not as tough as it could have been.

Tottenham – the Swiss side’s victims in the quarter final – might beg to differ and there is no doubt that Chelsea will have to play very well to book their place in the final in Amsterdam on 15th May. Then again, a trip to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce or to Estadio Da Luz to play Benfica would both be more daunting than one to St Jakob-Park.

If the merits of Chelsea’s potential opponents are a matter of opinion, what is certainly in the Blues’ favour is that the draw has ensured that the second leg will be played at Stamford Bridge. While the elimination of Barcelona in last season’s Champions League semi-final might have reached its crescendo away from home, the comeback against Napoli owed almost as much to the atmosphere created as the endeavour in the pitch. Guarding against a drubbing in the first leg is obviously paramount though as long as the scoreline is within reach there is always hope in the second leg even if a deficit needs to be overturned

However, the most gratifying aspect of the draw was that it did not feature any other teams from the Premier League. That is not meant as a slight against Newcastle or Spurs, solely that there is a distinct lack of glamour when facing a familiar local rival in a European fixture. Don’t get me wrong, the wins over Arsenal and Liverpool in the Champions League were immensely satisfying to say the least but continental competition is about sampling the exotic and the unknown.

Basel might be a far cry from Barcelona – even if their strip bears a remarkable similarity – but at least they are a fresh face as far as Chelsea are concerned. The danger is that this unfamiliarity could spring an unpleasant surprise on the Blues. Hopefully, having seen how impressively they dispatched Tottenham, Chelsea will take their next European opponents very seriously indeed and a second consecutive European final can be enjoyed by all those who follow the Blues.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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