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History beckons Chelsea in final

The premature end to Chelsea's Champions League defence had threatened to leave a cloud over their entire campaign. Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal as manager created a negative atmosphere that only got worse when the unpopular Rafael Benitez was appointed as his interim successor, but now, salvation is in sight.

sports Updated: May 15, 2013 01:47 IST

The premature end to Chelsea's Champions League defence had threatened to leave a cloud over their entire campaign. Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal as manager created a negative atmosphere that only got worse when the unpopular Rafael Benitez was appointed as his interim successor, but now, salvation is in sight.

Saturday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa essentially secured the club's place in next season's Champions League, and victory over Benfica would turn an unhappy campaign into one etched in Chelsea folklore.

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The all-German Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund on May 25 means Chelsea's fans will not be able to crow that they are the champions of Europe for much longer. But if they overcome Benfica, they will become the first club to hold both European titles at the same time.

They are also bidding to become only the fourth team to have won the Champions League, the Europa League and the now-defunct Cup Winners' Cup — which they won in 1971 and 1998 — after Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax Amsterdam.

Chelsea beat Benfica in the quarterfinals en route last season's Champions League triumph, but Spanish midfielder Juan Mata remains wary of Jorge Jesus's side. "We're playing against Benfica, a historic team in Europe that will be very tough to beat, as we saw last season in the Champions League," he said.

Amsterdam was the scene of Benfica's second European Cup win in 1962, but it remains the last venue where they have tasted success in a European final.