Dominic has signed off

Thanks for all your comments and questions. Enjoy the game, and here is a treat for any of you who collected (or still collect) Panini stickers.

Guardian staff

I'm going to escape into Amsterdam now. Thanks for your questions and comments, and enjoy the game tonight.

Lardons asks

Why all the revisionist "Rafa has done a great job" stuff of late? They were four points off the top when he waddled into town and failed to mount even a token challenge at any point under his guidance. Watch what Jose does with them next season.

Guardian staff

@Lardons - They were only heading one way, though, at the time. There was no sense of organisation at the back, and goals were being shipped far too readily. The sense was that things were unravelling, hence the (admittedly brutal) decision to sack Roberto di Matteo.

Quicknstraight writes:

We're here in Amsterdam so I hope to see a good performance from our boys tonight. The rumoured injury to Moses could be a blessing in disguise. It'll mean Ramires starting on the right of the attacking three instead, with Luiz in the holding role with Lampard.

Moses just hasn't done enough this season. Too often he has been meandering around the pitch, often with his back turned when Chelsea are in possession. Unbelievable, but true. And he never seems to try and gain separation from his marker when Chelsea are attacking either.

It has been a tiring few days after spending the weekend in Madrid to see Atletico v Barca, but the finish line is in sight. Provided, apparently, Chelsea and Arsenal don't finish all tied up in the Premier League table...

Guardian staff

@Quicknstraight - But Moses does have an excellent scoring record in this competition this season (five goals, no?). He completed training last night without any obvious discomfort, so I'd imagine he's in contention to start the game. However, Ramires did a decent job on the right of midfield in the last round so there is a logic in persisting with him there and David Luiz in central midfield. We'll see...

iliad00 writes:

I want Dortmund to win the Champions League as much as any normal football fan outside of Bavaria but how amazing would it be if Chelsea won the Europa League and got Mou over the summer, while Bayern won the CL with their incoming Pep. The Supercup would be then Mou's Chelsea against Pep's Bayern, just total narrative overload.

Guardian staff

@iliad00 - We were considering this last night. It would make the SuperCup in Prague next August rather enticing.

Ross McDonald Gilby asks:

It's one thing for Chelsea fans to hate Benitez on the grounds that he said disparaging things towards Chelsea when manager of a rival team quite a few years ago (some of which have actually been fabricated), but many of them revolted against his appointment on the grounds that he was simply a shit manager.

If they win tonight, and finish third in the league, do you think it's fair that those people at least acknowledge that he is actually a very good manager, albeit not the long-term manager they want the most?

Guardian staff

@Ross McDonald Gilby - I would argue he'd have done a very good job in the circumstances (particularly given the number of games they have played with a relatively thin squad) if they claim silverware and finish third. But I'm also pretty sure they will not be singing his name from the rafters at the Amsterdam ArenA while they parade the trophy round the pitch. Well, not in a complimentary manner, anyway. It was always going to be the awkward marriage of convenience. Maybe there'll be some grudging respect from those in the stands to the interim, but I doubt there'll be much of an outpouring of gratitude.

Ambie M. Joseph asks:
What is the current situation with Hazard's hamstring? How long before we have our firestarter back?

Guardian staff

@Ambie M. Joseph - There were suggestions coming out of the Belgian camp yesterday that the hamstring injury is not as serious as first feared, but I doubt Chelsea will be seeing him again this season.

cop1nghagen asks:

Chelsea would seem to be one of the few possible destinations for Wayne Rooney should he leave United. How likely do you think that move is, and if it happened, what is the likelihood for it being a success?

Guardian staff

@cop1nghagen - There was an interest from Chelsea in Wayne Rooney a few years back, but I'm not sure it's retained now. On a purely practical level, it's hard to see where he would fit into the system: if he is a No10, he'd have to displace a Mata or a Hazard; if he is the lone forward, does he boast the movement to thrive in this Chelsea system? Maybe he does, but he has been known to become "frustrated" when isolated up front, prompting the red mist to descend, so I'm unconvinced.

I wrote something on this the other day - http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2013/may/13/wayne-rooney-manchester-united. To be honest, I'd hope Rooney saw sense and remained at Manchester United, working with David Moyes. Much will depend upon the advice he is being given, though, if that is to come to pass.

Here's a clickable link to Dominic's article.

pianni asks:

Where will Rafa's will end up? Will he stay in England or move elsewhere?

Guardian staff

@pianni - I suspect he'll move elsewhere. He would have liked to have remained in England, with his family based as they are on Merseyside, but in the dealings we've had with him he has constantly stressed he would be seeking a club in contention for honours. Despite Wigan's achievement in claiming the FA Cup, that has limited him to a very small number of potential employers: he was never going to be contention for either Manchester club, is not going to remain at Chelsea, and neither Arsenal or Spurs are to be available. Everton were put to him as a possible destination last week but he shifted rather uncomfortably at the question.

There will be options abroad. The most attractive may be Paris St Germain (if Carlo Ancelotti leaves for Real Madrid) or Monaco (if Ranieri, as tends to happen, is dismissed having achieved phase one of a long-term, money-flushed project) in France. Real would be his ideal, but they seem keener on Carlo. Malaga would have been attractive last summer, but the owner's commitment has already provoked Pellegrini's departure and the funds may well have dried up. Schalke were mooted in the Bundesliga, but they have now appointed Jens Keller on a two-year contract...

The alternative, I suppose, might be to take on a "long-term project" with significant financial backing and build a team / club from a lower base, sacrificing the immediate prospect of trophies for a longer-term objective. But it will be interesting to see how many of those kind of clubs emerge under Financial Fair Play.

(So, in short, I have no idea where he'll go, but I'd suggest his reputation within the game has been enhanced by what he has achieved, and gone through, at Chelsea)

Richard4 asks

Hi Dominic, can you please tell me what Benitez said about the formation? Will Torres start? Is Hazard still injured? What about Benfica's line-up?

Guardian staff

@Richard4 - Torres starts as they have no other strikers in the competition (Demba Ba played for Newcastle in an earlier round and is cup-tied). Eden Hazard and John Terry are both out with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively. Looking at his options, it weirdly may boil down to a choice of either Gary Cahill at centre-half or Victor Moses in wide midfield, along these lines...

Option one (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; David Luiz, Lampard; Ramires, Mata, Oscar; Torres.

Option two (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Moses; Torres.

Either way, he only has 18 players from which to choose, so his options are very, very limited.

Shomsysgiants asks:

I read somewhere that you get about £3 million for winning the Europa league but close to £100m for the Champions League. Sounds a bit far fetched, but if true it's easy to understand why the competition is not taken all that seriously. Are there any plans to improve it in the future?

Guardian staff

@Shomsysgiants - I think Chelsea received £47m for winning it last season, but revenues in the competition were expected to rise by about 20% over the subsequent three seasons. Still a ridiculous amount of money, and one that eclipses anything you can generate in the Europa League. But the problem remains the scheduling (Thursday night football, so as not to detract from the elite competition) and the appetite out there. I'd still go for a knock-out competition, but I doubt Uefa would consider that option.

dandave asks:
If Rafa wins, will he run on to the pitch in a shellsuit with a big Liverpool flag and plant it in to the center spot and have a little bit of trouble because the ground is too hard, but get there in the end?

Guardian staff

@dandave - I doubt he'll "do a Souness". But it will be interesting to see how he conducts himself in his press conferences over the next few weeks. I was covering Liverpool for the paper when Benitez's side reached the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals and, while he was diplomatic in his statements in the build-up to each final, he used his post-match press conferences to challenge the board to raise the club to the next level. His outburst in Athens in 2007, aimed at Hicks and Gillett, was particularly explosive. He doesn't have that gripe here at Chelsea, where he had accepted a short-term brief, but he may yet have things he wishes to get off his chest. Watch this space.

mattyholls asks:

Do you think it would be a good idea for UEFA to scrap the group stages and just revert to a UEFA Cup knockout competition, which would reduce the amount of games and make less of an impact on teams with small squads?

Guardian staff

@mattyholls - Absolutely. But why stop there? Wouldn't it be more entertaining if the European Cup (sorry, Champions League) reverted to a knock-out competition as well? It's clearly never going to happen given the revenues it generates for Uefa and the elite clubs, but it'd make for a far more nail-biting competition: there have been some brilliant knock-out ties in this season's competition, but the group stages - even with Manchester City and Chelsea falling - still tend to deflate.

And on the volume of games, this will be Chelsea's 68th of the season, spread around England, Denmark, Italy, Ukraine, France, Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, Japan, Switzerland and now Holland. They should be knackered. And yet, next week, they jet off to the United States to play two (admittedly lucrative) friendly games against Manchester City in St Louis and New York. Work that one out...

WilsonPaul

Good afternoon, Dominic. Don't you think Chelsea are going to look a bit silly if they they ditch reliable Rafa in favour of flighty Jose?

Guardian staff

@WilsonPaul - @WilsonPaul - A good question. Benitez was clearly never a going to prove to be a long-term solution at Stamford Bridge. He would never have been accepted by the supporters and, while he has demonstrated an admirably thick skin since his appointment in November, the sense of grumbling mutiny would have proved unsettling in the long-run. I don't think there was anything he could have done to change that scenario, even if he is, as you say, "reliable", professional and committed to the role he took on. Acceptance would always have been elusive.

Turning back to Mourinho would have the opposite effect. He would galvanise the support, the vast majority of whom have been clamouring for his return. The Portuguese, too, has a habit of winning trophies from the outset and Roman Abramovich will want to witness a proper title challenge next season, a pursuit Mourinho could spark. But there are huge risks involved in going back to the Portuguese. For all the hiring and firing of managers, the structure at Chelsea is now set, the hierarchy established behind the scenes and the system operational, with some long-term planning (particularly with the recruitment of younger players) well underway. Mourinho would have to buy into all that and not disrupt the progress that has been made. They can't rip that strategy up overnight in pursuit of short-term gains.

His would be an emotional return, but Chelsea will be wary of the flipside to the manager - "flighty", as you say, but prone to tantrums and fall-outs with the hierarchy - and anxious not to disrail the long-term process.

The John Terry show continues...

MrGarethE asks:

The main question about the final: Will Terry be in full kit again on the bench?

Guardian staff

@MrGarethE - As pointed out above, I think he has to be if he wants to be involved in the post-match ceremony or photos on the turf. Pretty sure Uefa stipulate it these days (I know it's changed since Scholes and Keane in their suits back in 1999). Whether there'd be shinpads involved, I'm not sure...

citizenthirdmankane asks:

How good would it be, if Chelsea win, to see EBJT storm onto the pitch at the final whistle waving his arms in the air in full kit? Let me answer for you: It would be glorious.

Guardian staff

@citizenthirdmankane - If he wants to be in the post-match photographs (and, indeed, on the podium) he will have to be in full kit, apparently. Think it's a Uefa regulation. But I'm not sure he'll be storming on to the pitch. He might limp on - he didn't look comfortable jogging round the surface last night while his team-mates trained.

Ikonoclast asks:

Lampard as player-manager for Everton? Good luck to Chelsea, I hope they win. Benitez has finally got them to tick, they'll be a massive force again now Alex Ferguson has gone.

Guardian staff

@Ikonoclast - I suspect any hopes of Frank Lampard becoming "player manager for Everton" next season may be dashed at some point in the next 24 hours. The widely telegraphed suggestion is the England midfielder will finally sign a one-year contract extension at Chelsea after the Europa League final and remain at Stamford Bridge for a further 12 months. Presumably, that deal may be on slightly reduced terms and with performance related bonuses etc, but he is expected to remain at the club.

mike65ie asks:

Will Jacob Steinberg give Rafa any credit if Chelsea win tonight? ;-) More seriously, did the pre-match press conference by Jorge Jesus betray any heavy hearts in the Benfica camp?

Guardian staff

@mike65ie - Not going to answer for Jacob. Think he's still off somewhere mourning over Wigan Athletic's relegation... As for Benfica last night, Jorge Jesus, Luisao and Ola John provided a united front at their pre-match press conference and all three insisted they could separate their disappointment from the defeat to Porto from their anticipation ahead of this final. The manager's responses were deflective of the issue, as if he was not prepared to reflect on failure.

Luisao, the captain, simply said: “We trust the work we do. Since we finished that game, we've been concentrating on this final. We don't have to look back to a game that's finished. We trust our work every day, and we work a lot. So we have no concerns about being 'affected' still be the game against Porto. We don't have to motivate anyone. We have enormous motivation looking ahead. You don't need any more motivation than the Europa League final.”

Even so, they must have been scarred by what happened given their fate in the domestic championship has been wrested from them by their first defeat of the season. Maybe Chelsea can hope to exploit any anxiety in their ranks. But they should still be wary of Benfica's qualities: it was only in last season's Champions League quarter-final that, particularly at Stamford Bridge, the Portuguese side threatened to oust the Londoners, so their pedigree is very clear.

And, we're off...

flan5353 asks:

Obviously Rafa Benitez has been taking the tournament seriously, but how upset do you think the Chelsea players will be if they lose tonight? They stumbled their way to the final and it's not exactly like the final they were in this time last year.

Guardian staff

@flan5353 - If we take the comments made by the players en route to Amsterdam at face value, there is an eagerness within this Chelsea squad to win this trophy and ensure a season that began with the chance to win seven competitions does at least yield some silverware (albeit, as you say, in the one competition they didn't actually originally enter...). Petr Cech was interesting talking about this on the plane. One the one hand he kept reiterating how significant the Europa League is, as Uefa's second trophy. On the other, though, he stressed this must be a one-off opportunity because Chelsea, as a club, do not actually want to be competing for the Europa League in the seasons ahead. Their focus will remain adding further successes in the Champions League to their honours' board.

But, as a one-off event, they clearly will be motivated and committed towards winning this evening. And, should they stumble as they did in the Fifa Club World Cup final (or even the Uefa SuperCup back in August), I think the sense of deflation would be far greater over here in Amsterdam. They would be able to argue this has been a successful season if they win the cup and finish third (a clear improvement on last season's sixth place ending). If they're beaten by Benfica, that argument would feel rather hollow.

Dominic Fifield will be online from 1pm

Good afternoon. Dominic Fifield will be online soon.

In the meantime, why not take a look at our gallery of English involvement in previous Uefa Cup and Europa League finals, featuring Tottenham's glory game in 1972 and Fulham's heartbreaking defeat to Atlético Madrid in 2010. For more on tonight's fixture, here's Danny Taylor's preview.

If you have any questions, drop them into the comments section below.