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Chelsea ready to clinch last 16 berth

25 Nov 2013 01:16:54

Chelsea ready to clinch last 16 berth

Chelsea travel to Switzerland to face FC Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday knowing that a point will be enough to seal their place in the last 16.

Last year, as reigning European champions, the Blues were eliminated in the group stage, but while they have not always convinced since the return to the dugout of Jose Mourinho, they have seized control of Group E since a shock home defeat to Basel in September.

That 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge has been followed by comprehensive victories away to Steaua Bucharest and twice against Schalke, Mourinho's men rattling in 10 goals and conceding none in those games to sit three points clear of the Germans at the top of the section.

As they return to the St Jakob-Park, scene of a 2-1 win in the first leg of last season's Europa League semi-final in April, Chelsea will be looking to extend a run of just one defeat in 13 matches in all competitions.

They were convincing 3-0 winners away to West Ham United on Saturday, a result that left them in third place in the Premier League and eased concerns about their away form, which had previously been patchy.

Veteran midfielder Frank Lampard scored twice against his former club at the weekend and now he is looking forward to gaining revenge on Basel following that September shocker.

"The great thing about that game is it's a bit of a distant memory now, because of results since then," Lampard told Chelsea TV.

"It wasn't easy to go and win three on the bounce and we still have a bit more to do. We can put the record straight on Tuesday.

"We lost at home (to Basel), but we won there last year in the Europa League. Let's try to get that win. Then you can relax in that last game a little bit. We need to go and do the job."

Against West Ham, Chelsea were without left-back Ashley Cole, who has not started any of the team's last three games, with Cesar Azpilicueta again deputising on the left of the defence. Fernando Torres has also been on the sidelines due to an adductor injury, although Mourinho has indicated that he is "almost ready" to return.

The margins are fine for Chelsea, as a defeat in Switzerland would leave them just a point clear of Basel while also giving Schalke the chance to move level on points at the top if they can win away in Bucharest.

Basel are fresh from celebrating their 120th birthday with a 4-1 win against Thun at the weekend which kept them clear at the top of their domestic Super League and have been beaten just once in 19 outings since early August.

However, they have taken just one point from two home outings so far in this season's group stage and a defeat here, coupled with a win for Schalke, will end their prospects of reaching the last 16.

Coach Murat Yakin will look for his side to flourish in the role of underdog again, but must do without midfielder Marcelo Diaz after he suffered a broken rib while on international duty with Chile.


AFP

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