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For What It's Worth - Toon Would Have Been Heading To Turkey

12 Apr 2013 14:30:07

For What It's Worth - Toon Would Have Been Heading To Turkey

Newcastle fans would have been heading to Fenerbahce ... HAD we beaten Benfica last night. EUROPA LEAGUE

Europa League semi-final draw:

Fenerbahce v BenficaBasel v Chelsea

Chelsea will face Basle in the semi-finals of the Europa League as they bid to win their second successive European title.  The Premier League side, who beat Bayern Munich to the Champions League crown last season, will first play the Swiss opposition away from home on April 25 before the second leg at Stamford Bridge on May 2.

Fenerbahce, who beat Lazio 3-1 on aggregate to progress to the final four having lost their two previous European quarter-finals, will play Benfica in the other semi-final match.

Basle, who needed penalties to overcome Tottenham after their quarter-final was tied 4-4 after the two legs, will face a Blues side who secured their path to the final four with a 5-4 aggregate win over Russian side Rubin Kazan.

Chelsea club secretary David Barnard, who attended the draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, admitted Basle was the side the club wanted to draw in the semi-finals.

He told Sky Sports News: "I think we would have hoped for Basle, but then Basle have just put out Tottenham and were responsible for Manchester United not getting through the group stage which is a tough one.

"Credit must go to Rafa (Benitez) because of the way he has handled it and got Chelsea to two semi-finals (in the Europa League and Capital One Cup)."

The only other time Chelsea have played a Swiss club in a two-legged tie it ended in defeat, as they surrendered a 1-0 lead over St Gallen in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup first round, losing 2-0 in Zurich.

Basle manager Murat Yakin is confident they will suffer the same fate against his side, even though they will be playing the first European semi-final in their history.

"It was a difficult game against Tottenham," Basle boss Yakin told Press Association Sport.

"Chelsea are one step ahead of Tottenham. They also have very good individual players.

"It will probably be an even more difficult game but I am still confident about what my team can achieve and that a similar achievement is possible."

The bookmakers do not agree with Yakin, making Basle rank outsiders for Europa League glory.

Chelsea are favourites for the competition and the tie, which kicks off in Switzerland in two weeks' time.

The return leg at Stamford Bridge is the following week and Yakin is not concerned about the order in which the games come.

"We are happy to be in the semi-finals," he said. "We had a very good game in London and an average game yesterday.

"It doesn't matter whether we are home first or away, we are all just very happy to be in the semi-finals."

The semi-final also gives Yakin a chance to exact some revenge as 15 years ago he was part of the Stuttgart side that lost the Cup Winners' Cup final to Chelsea.

"Chelsea are a very big team," the former Switzerland international added. "Everybody knows Chelsea. They are a big team and have very good players.

"I have a special experience against them, although not such a nice one.

"I played against them in Stuttgart in 1998 and we lost, with Gianfranco Zola scoring the only goal. They also had Gianluca Villa and Roberto di Matteo, a Swiss man and now coach."

Meanwhile, Rui Costa, director of football at Benfica, appeared to be confident of overturning Fenerbahce in their semi-final.

Portuguese side Benfica, who defeated Newcastle to leave Chelsea the sole English club left in European competition, have been rewarded with a showdown with Istanbul-based Fenerbahce on the next step to the final in Amsterdam on May 15.

Benfica last encountered Turkish opposition two seasons ago in the Champions League third qualifying round, where they won 3-1 on aggregate against Trabzonspor.

"It's our second semi-final in three years," Costa told UEFA.com.

"Benfica are growing and improving. We are happy to be here, but we want more."We still have two games to play, but, for sure, our goal is to reach the final."

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Champions League semi-final draw:

Bayern Munich v BarcelonaBorussia Dortmund v Real Madrid

Bayern, who lost last season's final on their own ground to Chelsea, will bid to make their second consecutive final at Wembley on May 25 but they must first defeat Barca, who will make a record sixth successive semi-final appearance.

Real Madrid, semi-finalists for a record 24th time and in the final four for the third successive season, will face Borussia Dortmund and have the advantage of playing the second leg of their semi-final at home.

The draw at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, kept the two German and two Spanish sides apart, meaning there will not be a repeat of three seasons ago when Primera Division rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid met in the semi-finals.

However, even though Real have avoided an El Clasico showdown in the final four, they will instead face a determined Dortmund side who they failed to beat during this season's group stages.

Dortmund, who have made the semi-finals for the first time in 15 years, are the only unbeaten side left in the competition, which includes a Group D 2-1 home win against Real before they drew 2-2 in the reverse fixture at the Bernabeu.

Bayern will play Barcelona on 23 April and May 1, while Dortmund and Real will face each other on April 24 and 30.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admits he is relishing a tough test against a side he holds in such high regard

"Barcelona are the benchmark for me in Europe. They have won the Champions League more than any other team in the recent years," Rummenigge told UEFA's website.

"They are the best team in Europe at the moment with fantastic attacking potential.

"We played them in 2009 and received a real thumping. I remember that game well and I don't really like to think about it, because it was quite painful to watch.

"However, it's a wonderful opportunity to show that we have improved a lot since then."

Rummenigge also denied that playing the opening match at home is a disadvantage.

"I think we will see two very good games played at the highest possible level," he said.

"Furthermore, I think playing at home first is a slight advantage, contrary to the popular belief that it's a disadvantage.

"We saw that against Juventus, where people said that it might be a disadvantage. But we produced a great performance at home and that set the stage for the return leg and our progression into the semi-finals.

"I'm really excited that we will get to play the best team in Europe. I still feel Barcelona are the big favourites to win the Champions League."

Meanwhile, Dortmund general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke was pleased to have drawn a Spanish opponent and avoid an all-Bundesliga tie.

"We are happy with this draw - not because we think it's an easy one, but because the Champions League is an international competition and we wanted an international game rather than a national tie against Bayern," Watzke said.

"I don't think Madrid will be afraid because of what happened in the group stage.

"They will respect us, just like we will respect them."

Real manager Jose Mourinho, who has guided the Spanish side to their third successive semi-final, has matched Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson's record of seven appearances in the last four of the European Cup.

The Portuguese has also reached this stage with Porto, Inter Milan and Chelsea.

Former Real striker and club ambassador Emilio Butragueno insisted Dortmund will not be taken lightly, even though they have been absent from the final stages of the tournament for a decade and a half.

"It's a pleasure and honour for us to be here," Butragueno said.

"We have a lot of respect for Borussia Dortmund. We played them twice (in the group stage) but didn't manage to beat them.

"This time we hope it will different as we want to be in the final, that's what we are all dreaming of."

Source: Newcastle United Mad


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