Chelsea head to Russia hoping to make some happier memories in the Luzhniki Stadium as they aim to make the semi-finals of the Europa League. We all know what happened in that stadium almost five years ago.
After taking control of the first leg 3-1, Chelsea are hot favourites to make Rubin Kazan the latest victims in their quest for consecutive European titles. First half goals from Fernando Torres and Victor Moses gave Chelsea fans a hope of an easy night. And a harsh penalty for handball was a minor blip as masked man, Torres, put the game to bed with his second after 70 minutes.
There were only 45 Rubin Kazan fans that made the trip to London and they could be outnumbered again tonight. The Luzhniki Stadium sits 500 miles away from Kazan and less than 2,000 fans saw Kazan’s last minute winner against Levante in the last round. Reports suggest that over 2,000 official Chelsea supporters club from Eastern Europe will make the trip making it feel more like a home game for The Blues.
Rafa Benitez has some difficult decision to make ahead of tonight’s game. With a comfortable 3-1 lead against Kazan, Benitez is looking for a balance of a team strong enough to see out the Europa League tie, whilst keeping the squad fresh ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. But there are problems for tonight’s line-up. Benitez confirmed that Gary Cahill has surgery on a knee problem at the end of March. And with both left backs, Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand out injured the defence looks a stretched. Paulo Ferreria, Nathan Ake or David Luiz have all been tipped to start at left-back. Fernando Torres will hope to continue his form in Europe with Demba Ba ineligible. And Oriol Romeu remains the only long-term absentee.
Fernando Torres’ goals in the first leg have given him 19 for the season; more than Rooney, Hernandez, Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko, Ba, Giroud, Defoe and Adebayor.
Just 2,593 fans saw Rubin Kazan knock out reigning champions, Atletico Madrid in the round of 32.
Four Chelsea players are at risk of suspension for the first leg of the semi-final if they get booked tonight.
Rubin Kazan have never been involved in a penalty shoot-out in a UEFA competition.