Soccer Picks & Tips: Chelsea vs. Basel Europa League

Nila Amerova

Monday, April 29, 2013 7:55 PM GMT

Chelsea have one foot in the Europa League final. Can Basel rescue the tie at Stamford Bridge on Thursday in London or will Chelsea advance as the soccer odds makers predict. Here is a breakdown of this much-anticipated clash, complete with predictions and picks.


Chelsea has the advantage

Chelsea take the decided advantage into the Europa League second leg after a last gasp goal by David Luiz in stoppage time catapulted Chelsea to a 2-1 victory in Basel last week. The crucial win and, more importantly, two away goals, put Chelsea in pole position for the Europa League final, a gain that is reflected in the odds for the return leg at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea is priced at soccer odds of 1/2 to win outright.

Chelsea came out of the gates running and quickly took the 1-0 lead through Victor Moses. They played an enterprising first and second half and could have scored more goals but for narrow misses, posts jumping in the way and a leaping Yann Sommer heroically deflecting fine attempts.

Of course, credit goes to Basel as well for playing a stoic and determined game against Chelsea and when Fabian Schar scored in the 87th minute, they all but undid Chelsea’s hard work and rescued the tie. But things were not done yet. Far from it, as in the 94th minute (ever so dramatically) Luiz sent a 25-yard free-kick past Sommer to notch the 2-1 victory for the Blues.

When it comes to European competition, Chelsea know what it takes to win. Winners last year in Champions League, they are now on the cusp of potentially winning the Europa League title – a back-to-back feat that would be a first in the history of European club competition.

Chelsea cannot take anything for granted however. Tottenham Spurs know only too well the price of underestimating Basel as they played a very tough quarterfinal with the Swiss side only to be eked out on penalties.

Fact is Basel is still very much in it. A spot in the final is on the line and with everything to play for yet, Basel could very well turn this tie on its head.

Basel down but not out

Basel have room for optimism when they travel to London, despite being listed as the severe 6/1 underdogs at William Hill.

In the first leg, there were plenty of positives to take away: they dominated possession for most of the game – although they did struggle to find openings – and they defended stoically. Yann Sommer was huge between the posts in keeping the score close, and, for the return leg, they’ll be relying on him to be just as solid.

Basel deserved to get on the scoreboard, even if when it finally came it was under questionable circumstances. Now the task ahead, if they hope to yank this tie from under Chelsea, is to neutralise Chelsea’s advantage on away goals. To do that they’ll need their offense on full throttle; namely Marco Strellar, Valentin Stocker and Mohamed Salah have to be more creative in order to breakthrough. Chelsea did a great job with this offensive trio in the first leg, rendering them ineffective (they recorded the fewest touches). They can’t allow Chelsea to replicate the same playbook in the second leg.

Soccer Betting Verdict: As far as looking for value in this game, it’s to be had on both sides of the coin. Chelsea promises value simply by virtue of being one foot into the final. They are the so-called “smart bet,” a likely winner with the lead and home advantage on their side. To put it simply: it’s their tie to lose now. Basel however holds monetary value in their astronomical price tag. A bet on Basel, if it were to come through, would pad a soccer bettor’s pocket nicely. Of course, it’s a long shot choice for your soccer picks. A risky play not for the fainthearted as the chances of it actually coming through are slim to none. If it were to come through, it would probably rank as one of the biggest upsets on English soil in European competition.

Soccer Free Picks: Chelsea to win outright at 1/2 at William Hill.