Two goals from Fernando Torres gave Chelsea a 3-1 advantage in the first leg against Rubin Kazan but they will need to guard against complacency if they are to reach the semifinals of the Europa League. The away goal, fortunate though it was through a very controversial penalty kick award, gives the Russians hope if they can put the Blues under pressure in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday.
A scrambled goal from the Spaniard after 16 minutes set Chelsea on their way at Stamford Bridge. A superb half volley by Victor Moses doubled their lead before they were pegged back by Natcho’s penalty. Torres teamed up with Juan Mata to head home a vital third goal after 70 minutes to give the Blues some breathing space ahead of the return leg. Chelsea’s last visit to the Luzhniki Stadium ended in defeat when they played Manchester United in the Champions League final in 2008. The Londoners will also have one eye on Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Manchester City.
Rubin Kazan knocked out Europa League holders Atletico Madrid earlier in the competition and are optimistic that they can still topple last year’s Champions League winners. Coach Kurban Berdyev said “At the moment Chelsea has a very good advantage, but we can say that we’re going to do everything possible we can do to win this game on the pitch tomorrow.” Rubin won all three of their home group games in their home stadium in Kazan, their victims including Inter Milan. They had hoped to play at the same venue for the Chelsea game but it was ruled out following a pitch inspection. Their supporters are being urged to make the trip to Moscow to support the team, knowing that a 2-0 victory would be sufficient to see them through.
Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has admitted that the team is still hurt by their early elimination from the Champions League. The Europa League is still regarded as the second tier in Europe and both Manchester clubs failed to find the motivation to progress in the tournament last season. Left-back Ryan Bertrand will miss Thursday’s game due to illness and has not travelled with the squad. His absence is a blow to the Blues who are already without regular fullback Ashley Cole. Dutchman Nathan Ake or Portuguese Paulo Ferreira will be called upon by Rafael Benitez as he continues to shuffle his squad through a hectic fixture schedule. Rubin’s only absentees will midfielders Yann M’Vila and Alexei Eremenko.
The two teams are difficult to split in the football betting. Chelsea and Rubin can both be backed at 7-4 to secure a victory with the draw priced at 9-4. However, Chelsea are 8-11 to progress to the semi-finals. Fernando Torres is 7-1 to open the scoring with Juan Mata at 15-2 and Frank Lampard 8-1.