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Chelsea and Benfica underwhelm ahead of their quarter-final clash

| 26.03.2012

Chelsea’s momentum under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo appears to be dwindling following a 0-0 draw with Tottenham which prompted the Italian to concede that finishing in the top four will prove difficult.

The stalemate, in which Spurs had the better chances, came just three days after the Blues suffered their first defeat under Andre Villas-Boas’ former assistant at Manchester City, halting a run of four straight wins.

Failing to beat their faltering London rivals leaves them five points off the Champions League pace with only eight games to make amends, which is why they are 11/4 outsiders to break back into the positions.

The consequence is that their only route into next season’s competition could soon be by winning the current edition, with the next obstacle on that mission provided by Benfica, who they visit on Tuesday.

The Portuguese side, who once boasted both David Luiz and Ramires, are going through a challenging phase themselves right now though, Friday’s bore draw at Olhanense a fourth stutter in six league fixtures.

Those setbacks have allowed Porto and Braga back into a title race that they at one stage seemed in control of, however their European form has remained impressive throughout.

Jorge Jesus’ team have outshone the likes of Manchester United and Zenit St Petersburg to make a rare quarter-final appearance, and have won 18 in 21 at their Estadio da Luz this term, including 11 of their last 12.

They are 11/8 favourites to claim yet another victory against Chelsea, who have drawn two and lost three of their last five Champions League away outings, while the Londoners are 13/8 to enjoy a rare travelling triumph.

The market on who will qualify from the tie and face Barcelona or AC Milan in the semi-finals tells a different story however, with Di Matteo’s men 8/15 to the two-time European champions’ 7/5.



Richard Anderson