AMSTERDAM — After a turbulent season, history beckons for Chelsea in tonight’s Uefa Europa League final in Amsterdam, where they will meet a Benfica team reeling from a devastating domestic defeat by arch rivals Porto.
Report by Reuters
The premature end to Chelsea’s Uefa Champions League defence had threatened to leave a cloud over their entire campaign.
They are also bidding to become only the fourth team to have won the Champions League, the Europa League and the now-defunct Cup Winners’ Cup — which they won in 1971 and 1998 — after Bayern, Juventus and Ajax.
Chelsea beat Benfica in the quarterfinals en route to last season’s Champions League triumph, but Spanish midfielder Juan Mata remains wary of Jorge Jesus’ side.
“We’re playing against Benfica, a historic team in Europe that will be very tough to beat, as we saw last season in the Champions League,” he wrote on his personal blog on Monday.
Amsterdam was the scene of Benfica’s second European Cup triumph in 1962, but it remains the last venue where they have tasted success in a European final.
There have been six painful defeats since then, although the most recent was 23 years ago, when they lost 1-0 to AC Milan in the final of the 1990 European Cup.
There was fresh heartache on Saturday when a stoppage-time goal gave Porto a 2-1 win over their closest rivals that took them to the brink of the Primeira Liga title.
Benfica coach Jesus fell to his knees in disbelief as a low shot by Porto substitute Kelvin crept in at Estadio do Dragao, and he admitted it would be a challenge to rouse his players.