Chelsea have received a boost as England defensive duo Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill have returned to fitness and have travelled to Switzerland ahead of their Europa League semi-final against Basel tonight.
Cole had been out with a hamstring injury that he picked up against Manchester United on Easter Monday whilst Cahill hasn’t played since the West Ham game and had surgery on his knee shortly afterwards. Brazilian midfielder Oscar was also on the plane that left yesterday morning after he suffered a slight groin injury at Anfield on Sunday.
Basel our without their forward Alex Frei, who retired after the Swiss side knocked Tottenham out of the competition on penalties in the last round and has started a career as a sporting director at Lucerne. Philipp Degan is a doubt but will probably be risked and Marco Strellar will lead the line as Raul Bobadilla is cup-tied.
The XI I’d pick:
C. Azpilicueta – D. Luiz – J. Terry (c) – A. Cole
Ramires – F. Lampard
V. Moses – Oscar – E. Hazard
The Europa League represents Chelsea’s last chance to win a trophy this season and should be taken seriously now but it would mean nothing unless we finish in the Premier League’s top four places, which will remain the club’s priority.
It would be a good chance to test the fitness of the returning Cole, who can once again play alongside our captain who didn’t feature against Liverpool at the weekend. There’s also Cahill, who could perhaps give David Luiz a breather at some point by coming off the bench, depending on how things are going but I wouldn’t throw both Cole and Cahill straight back in at the same time.
Frank Lampard is due a goal now, surely? Hopefully he can find the net one or two times tonight and give us an advantage to take back to Stamford Bridge. Like Terry, Lampard did not start against Liverpool so I’m guessing he’ll play a full game tonight.
I don’t ever like seeing Juan Mata out of the team but considering our top four hopes I think we should be wrapping the guy up in cotton wool. We should be able to do enough without him and the weekend’s game is the priority.
No surprises that Torres starts up top again as he’s the only man available and will hope to continue his fine form in the Europa League.