Whilst the 2012-13 season has been far worse than 2011-12 ever looked like being, Chelsea are again the only EPL side left in European competition at the semifinal stage. Manchester United and Arsenal fell to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively in their Champions League round-of-16 ties, leaving all Premier League hopes in the Europa League.
Liverpool were first to be knocked out of the tournament they qualified for through their league position, losing on away goals to Zenit St Petersburg in the round-of-32. Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Chelsea all made it through to the quarterfinals, but an all English semifinal is no longer a possibility.
FC Basel beat Tottenham 4-1 on penalties after a 4-4 aggregate scoreline after 120 minutes in Switzerland. Spurs had twice come from behind to force extra time, but Emmanuel Adebayor in particular lacked the focus to score from the spot.
Newcastle had too much to do at St James' Park having lost 3-1 at Benfica in the first leg. The Magpies scored first but a last minute equaliser saw them exit the competition on the wrong end of a 4-2 aggregate scoreline.
All of that leaves the current European champions as the only English team in Europe. With a 3-1 lead from the first leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea returned to the scene of one of the most heart-breaking moments in their history. Rubin Kazan's home ground was deemed unsuitable for the fixture by UEFA, so the tie was moved to the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, where Chelsea lost the 2007-08 Champions League final to Manchester United.
This time, a Fernando Torres goal gave them an early lead and a vital away goal before Rubin Kazan equalised in the second half. Victor Moses made the aggregate score 5-2 to Chelsea, and a late two-goal rally from Kazan was not enough to prevent the Blues from marching on.
They might be competing for the "lesser" trophy, but the Blues still stand to make history as the first team to win both titles in consecutive seasons, in reverse order.
Chelsea will face either Benfica, Basel or Fenerbahce in the two-legged semifinal on April 25/May 2. However, their continued progress in the competition will hinge on whether they can avoid it next season.
They will face Manchester United in the Premier League on May 4, and the only date available for their rearranged fixture with Tottenham will be May 8. If Chelsea repeat their 2011-12 cup successes, it could come at a huge cost in the League. Fourth place is the minimum target to secure Champions League football, and if they fail to secure that, the Europa League trophy will not matter. Whilst it would look nice in the cabinet, you can guarantee that they would rather not defend that title next year.
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