FRANK Lampard has not discussed whether it will be he or John Terry who lifts the Europa League trophy as he thinks it may jinx Chelsea’s chances of success against Benfica tonight.
Chelsea will hope to salvage something from a rollercoaster year this evening when they play Benfica in the Europa League final at the Amsterdam ArenA.
The Blues won the Champions League on a dramatic night in Munich one year ago but, since then, they have sacked their manager, appointed an unpopular temporary replacement and had to settle for playing in the Europa League rather than continuing to feature at Europe’s top table.
Club captain Terry is a major doubt for tonight’s game with an ankle injury, meaning Lampard is likely to lead the team out in the Dutch capital.
Terry missed last year’s final through suspension but that did not stop the defender turning up in his full kit to lift the trophy with Lampard – an act which led to some derision of the former England skipper online.
There has been no discussion as to who will have the honour of lifting the trophy this year though, should Chelsea triumph.
“Before the game I don’t think it’s something to talk about,” Lampard said. “I don’t like to tempt fate. I haven’t had a conversation with anyone.
“I don’t think you should do. We will see. We win together so it doesn’t matter who picks it up because they will be one of the staff and we’re all the same.”
Lampard arguably deserves to be the man who has the honour of lifting the famous piece of silverware if the Blues beat the two-time European champions. The 34-year-old has had a stellar season, finding the net 17 times on his way to breaking Bobby Tambling’s all-time club scoring record, which had stood for 43 years.
Given that he is yet to extend a contract which runs out in the summer, it may well be Lampard’s last European final for the club too. Speculation mounted following his record-breaking brace at Aston Villa, that Chelsea would push for the midfielder to remain at the club despite a claim from the player’s agent that Chelsea had told him that the England man would not be offered fresh terms under any circumstance.
For now, the former West Ham midfielder, who moved to Stamford Bridge in 2001, is just focusing on this evening’s game, rather than where his future lies. “All of us here want to win this for Chelsea. I don’t know what my future holds but it’s all about winning the game,” he said.
Roberto Di Matteo guided the Blues to victory in Germany last May but was sacked in November to be replaced by the largely unpopular Rafael Benitez. Despite barracking from his own club’s supporters, Benitez has secured Champions League football for next season thanks to a six-match unbeaten run in the Barclays Premier League.
Lampard, who has not always featured under the Spaniard, was reluctant to say the club had over-achieved this season but he conceded that the squad had become used to dealing with the mid-term firing of managers.
“We are used to things happening at this club mid-season,” Lampard said. “We have a few changes along the way but what is important is where you get to at the end of it. At the moment we are lucky to be in the position that we are in the Champions league next year and we are sitting here ahead of a European final. I don’t think we have over-achieved. We have a good squad and we want to achieve tomorrow by winning.”
Eden Hazard is unavailable due to a hamstring injury, meaning Lampard is likely to keep his place in midfield alongside David Luiz, with former Benfica man Ramires pushing further up the pitch.
Forward Victor Moses (leg), midfielder John Obi Mikel (hip) and left-back Ryan Bertrand (knee) have suffered injuries of late and may not be available, but Oriol Romeu travelled with the squad after his long-term absence with a knee problem.
History beckons as Jesus bids to end Benfica’s 51-year Euro drought
BENFICA manager Jorge Jesus will not let the hoodoo of a 51-year European trophy drought distract his players from beating Chelsea to Europa League glory tonight.
Jesus is reminded on a daily basis of the European Cup triumphs of 1961 and 1962 especially considering that, despite reaching six continental finals in the meantime, the Portuguese giants have come up short for more than 50 years.
Jesus said: “I know that Benfica’s great moment in sporting history was in the 1960s. I was born in 1954, but I know the history of the club because I have read about it and it is illustrated in photos at the training ground.
“Winning the Europa League would be a very important moment in the club’s history, and for the players and staff.
“Getting to the final is a great achievement in itself but coming away victorious would be even greater.
“Benfica are always under pressure when they play and we know that in every competition we take part in, the aim is to get to the final and win.”
The 58-year-old coach is relishing the opportunity to tackle last year’s Champions League winners Chelsea, who boast a pair of Benfica graduates, in Amsterdam tonight.
“It’s our pleasure to face Chelsea, to share a final with opponents that were once my players,” he added.
“They have David Luiz and Ramires, but I’m not forgetting about Paulo Ferreira and Hilario. That is an important thing to note, and we’re happy to meet them in the final.”
Argentinian midfielder Nicolas Gaitan, who has appeared in all eight of Benfica’s Europa League matches, is eager to help the current crop of Eagles make history.
He said: “I know that it has been a long time since Benfica reached a European final.
“I know that they are a team with a lot of victories in the past. Now we have a chance to achieve that as well. So in terms of history, the time is now.
“It doesn’t matter if you win two games here or three games there, it’s all about how you play and what happens on the day [of the final]. You have to do well on that day and nothing else.”
The 25-year-old added: “You’ve been watching this since you were a child and now it is a reality and you’ve made it.
“I am very happy, because you dream about this as a child. Now that we are here, we want to win it, and I am sure it’s the same for Chelsea.”