Chelsea will face FC Basel in the semis of the Europa League. We play first away at the St. Jakob-Park on the 25. April, the return leg at the Bridge will be one week later.
Basel has won the Swiss league 3 times in a row now and they are also currently the first in the league. The dominance of Basel in Switzerland allows them to rotate often, so the team will likely be rested ahead of both games ahead of us. Although Basel has “only” a three-point lead to the second, the qualitative difference between Basel and rest of all Swiss teams are too big and they will break away from the other teams in just a matter of time.
Murat Yakin, the manager, mostly prefers a flexible and offensive 4-1-4-1 that can be transformed to a more defense 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 depended on the opponent and score. The wingers (Stocker on the left, Salah on the right) play a major role at Basel by creating the chances and supplying the one striker with crosses. Fabian Frei plays as an attacking central midfielder who is supported by Diaz, who is the more flexible player. Diaz can play both attacking and defensive midfield and he plays in a deeper position than Frei. Behind the two men, Serey Die is the typical defensive midfielder who is the fighter of the team and wins a lot of balls. Both fullbacks are relatively offensive, but they have problems with their positioning in the defence. Sommer, the goalkeeper, isn’t the most solid keeper, but he’s got a great diving and reflexes (more the De Gea type goalkeeper).
Our advantage is simply that we have the better players and the bigger name. Basel may be insecure at the beginning of the match and that is where we can profit. They also will be very nervous, because most of the players are very young and it’s the first time for Basel to play in semifinal in a European cup. Basle’s squad isn’t nearly on the level with Chelsea’s in quality or experience.
The biggest disadvantage for us will be the fitness level and fatigue (and maybe also underestimation). We didn’t rest any important players against Liverpool (and there was also no need to rest them because Top 4 is still top priority) , while FC Basel took on Thun with Salah, Die and Degen all on the bench . Before the second leg, Basel will take on FC Lucerne (my hometown club), which Basel destroyed 4-0 just recently. We already have to watch ahead to the weekend then, when we take on Manchester United at Old Trafford. It will be difficult having so many important games in such short period of time.
Their key players
Aleksandar Dragovic (apparently he’s injured, but I have no idea how long he’s injured, so I will include him in the article): In my view an absolute twat with a bad personality, but he’s without a doubt a talented and one of Basel’s key players. The 22-year old centre-back forms a young centre-defence with Schär, 21, who is also a very good player. Dragovic is the more solid and defensively stronger of both players.
Valentin Stocker: The left-winger/midfielder produces a lot of pressure to the opponents defence due to his running ability. He’s physically not the strongest, but he’s a fighter for his team. The 24-year old has got a good technique (good passing, dribbling and crossing) and he can also score goals, but mostly he’s doing the assists.
Mohammed Salah: This man doesn’t need an introduction to most of the fans who watched both games between Basel and Spurs. He was absolutely brilliant in both games. The 20-year old is very fast, a great dribbler and very dangerous. A typical winger.
Basel’s goal scoring machine: Marco Streller
Marco Streller: An experienced and very tall striker. His strength is by no surprise his heading standing at 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in). He’ll be very dangerous for our defence as our defence is very weak at handling crosses.
We can’t underestimate FC Basel because they are a strong team. They beat Manchester United in the group stage last year and they also eliminated big European clubs like Tottenham (don’t have a go at me please for calling Spurs a big European team) and Zenit in this year’s Europa League. An advance to the final will be no problem in my view, but Basel can be dangerous if we play too sloppy.
What’s your opinion on FC Basel? Please let me know your prediction on both games against the Swiss giants in the comments. Jonny (@jonny9fan)