What: Europa League Quarter-final – Second leg
Who: Rubin Kazan (1) vs Chelsea (3) – First leg score in brackets
When: Thursday 11th April, 2013, at 17:00 UK Time
Where: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia
Away Goal Hopes
Rubin Kazan prepare to host Chelsea in the unfriendly confines of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. Unfriendly for Rubin as the match must be played on the synthetic turf at the Luzhniki, since the Russian side’s home pitch did not pass a recent inspection, being deemed unplayable. This could be a critical decision as the Russians are unbeaten in their last 18 European matches on their home turf at the Central Stadium in Kazan. In their last four visits to the Luzhniki Stadium they have one win and three defeats.
Despite the stadium controversy, the Russian club will be clinging to Bibras Natkho’s vital away goal at Stamford Bridge as they aim to reverse the 3-1 scoreline. The Israeli’s 40th minute penalty kick in the first leg gives Kurban Berdyev’s side a glimmer of hope when they take on the English giants in the return.
The Russian side will be aiming to knock out the winners of both last season’s European competitions having already disposed of Atletico Madrid in the Round of 32. If they could do the same to Chelsea it would undoubtedly be hailed as the club’s best-ever European performance, however no one is under any illusions of how difficult that could prove to be.
Chelsea come into a crucial week as far as their cup ambitions are concerned. Still in the hunt for a Champions League spot, the club can still lift some silverware in both the Europa League and the FA Cup. For Rafael Benitez, the chance to silence the naysayers in what has been a tumultuous stint in charge of the Blues will surely be motivation to add to Chelsea’s trophy case.
Certainly, his side take a good advantage to Russia for the second leg and Benitez was pleased at his side’s performance in the first match. "It was a good job. We were in control, 3-1 is not bad, but could be better", he said. "It (the penalty decision) was harsh, but these decisions you have to carry on and get a third goal. We did it and we were hoping for a fourth goal.” Benitez went on to insist his club have what it take to advance, “I think we have enough quality for the second leg. It will be more difficult. They will be attacking more but I think we have the quality."
Going from Champions League winners to Europa League victors may be seen as a step backwards, however in light of the way Chelsea’s season has gone and the losses in the UEFA Super Cup final and FIFA Club World Cup final, there remains an opportunity to salvage something from this season.
Rubin Kazan 2-0 Lokomotiv Moscow (30/03; Russian Premier League)
Chelsea 3-1 Rubin Kazan (04/04; Europa League)
Kuban Krasnodar 0-0 Rubin Kazan (07/04; Russian Premier League)
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United (01/04; FA Cup)
Chelsea 3-1 Rubin Kazan (04/04; Europa League)
Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland (07/04; Premier League)
Chelsea: Demba Ba; Ashley Cole; Gary Cahill
Players to watch
Rubin Kazan – Gokdeniz Karadeniz: The Turkish midfielder has enjoyed life since a move to Russia in 2008. He has done it all with Rubin, even leading the club to their only two league titles. This season his influence has continued especially in Europe where the 33-year-old has not only been a solid performer in midfield, but has also chipped in with vital goals against the likes of Partizan, Inter Milan, and Atletico Madrid. Karadeniz has made no secret his desire to stay with Rubin for the remainder of his career having turned down the advances of other Russian sides in recent years.
Chelsea – Juan Mata: On his day, the Spaniard is one of the world’s best midfielders. In his second season with the Blues, Mata has not suffered a sophomore slump, rather he has picked up where he left off last season. The statistics don’t lie as Mata has 18 goals and 31 assists in 52 matches this season in all competitions. The quintessential playmaker, Mata is always lively in and around the opposition’s penalty box and with his array of deft touches and passing vision is the key Chelsea often use to unlock resistance. Should Chelsea score in Russia, it will be more than likely thanks to the genius of their number ten.
Chelsea’s third goal at Stamford Bridge in the first leg could be the crucial one of this quarter-final set. Rubin Kazan will need to conjure up one of their best European performances if they are to defeat Chelsea by two goals to advance.
The Russians will be hoping that the English side have one eye on their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City and truth be told, Chelsea could be tired or unfocused to some degree considering they are the middle of a stretch of six matches in sixteen days. As with so many two-goal deficits, an early goal will be vital for Rubin. They do have the benefit of that away goal, but in the end Chelsea should cruise through to the semi-final. Rubin Kazan 1-1 Chelsea.
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