Chelsea's Eden Hazard out of Europa League final
AMSTERDAM (AP) -Chelsea will be without Eden Hazard for Wednesday's Europa League final against Benfica after the Belgium playmaker failed to recover in time from a hamstring injury.
By comparison, Benfica only has to deal with hurt pride after it lost the Portuguese league lead to archrival FC Porto.
After winning the Champions League title last year, Chelsea became the first holder to fail to reach the knockout stage the following season, and the team has long been a non-factor in the Premier League title chase.
That means only victory in the lesser of Europe's two cup tournaments can salvage a disappointing season for the London club.
Both John Terry and Hazard picked up injuries Sunday in Chelsea's Premier League win over Aston Villa, but the captain could still be fit for the game, coach Rafa Benitez said.
For Hazard, though, the match came too soon.
"Hazard will not be available,'' said Benitez.
The Belgian limped off in stoppage time of the Villa game. Hazard is steadily turning into Chelsea's most creative player, and his speed and passing skills will be sorely missed against Benfica.
Coach Jorge Jesus insisted the bad feelings from the weekend game had already evaporated and all the focus is on Benfica's biggest match in 23 years.
"A Portuguese league game has nothing to do with the final of the Europa League,'' Jesus said.
In an almost symbolic gesture, Jesus fell to his knees when Porto scored in injury time last weekend for a 2-1 come-from-behind victory. On top of the setback, it has also been increasingly evident that the Lisbon-based players are showing the wear of a draining season which, like Chelsea, included a group-stage exit from the Champions League.
But just the chance of holding a European cup aloft is putting the fire back in players.
`'We are feeling the adrenaline, butterflies in our stomachs, because it is such an important match,'' said defender Luisao.
Chelsea comes into the final on an eight-match unbeaten run and has a number of defensive options who can fill in for Terry - including Brazil international David Luiz, who transferred from Benfica two years ago.
Both face a fitness test during Chelsea's evening training session at the Amsterdam ArenA, home of Ajax.
For Benfica coach Jorge Jesus, his concerns have more to do with mental damage than physical.
Benfica's heyday was in the 1960s when it reached five European Champions' Cup finals. The last one it won, in 1962 against Real Madrid, was in Amsterdam.
It has lost six finals on the trot since then, the last one in 1990, meaning it has gone 23 years without a final.
By comparison, Chelsea's taste of victory is still fresh, having beaten Bayern Munich on penalties in last year's Champions League final.
Associated Press writer Mike Corder contributed to this story.
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