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  • Rubin Kazan v Chelsea, Europa League

Benitez aims to extend European legacy

ESPN staff
April 11, 2013
Moses focused on Rubin Kazan

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Wherever Rafael Benitez goes he cannot escape the history achieved at Liverpool - not even ahead of Chelsea's Europa League quarter-final second leg against Rubin Kazan in Moscow.

Benitez was an unpopular appointment at Stamford Bridge due to his prior association with Liverpool - a side he led to the Champions League title in 2005 after a controversial semi-final defeat of the Blues.

In a bid to quell the discontent emanating from the stands, Benitez in February called for them to back the team and confirmed he would be leaving Chelsea at the end of the season.

Speculation has mounted in recent weeks over where Benitez will go next. A leading side in England is an option, and he did not totally dismiss the prospect of a return to Liverpool this week - in part because his family home remains in the North West.

A local journalist informed Benitez that Russian Liverpool fans are intending to attend the match at the Luzhniki Stadium and asked about a return to Anfield.

The Spaniard, wearing a wide smile, said: "All the support is welcome, but especially for the players, so hopefully the players will feel a little warm and will be fine.

"I have my family in Liverpool so that is my home and I will come back to Liverpool any time. Just to clarify: I'm talking about my home, where my family is, not the team.

"I am the Chelsea manager and I will go back next week because we have to play against Liverpool.''

The reaction of Chelsea's anticipated small band of travelling fans will be intriguing at a venue where they have experienced defeat on the biggest stage - the 2008 Champions League final penalty shootout loss to Manchester United.

The ghost was put to rest when Chelsea beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 on their return to the arena in October 2010, also in the Champions League, but the Europa League is new territory for a team perennially in the latter stages of the top-tier European competition.

That is nothing to do with Benitez; his predecessor Roberto Di Matteo's side had already become the first holders to exit the competition prior to his November appointment. Now the Spaniard is seeking to finish his Blues career on a high, beginning with safe passage into Friday's semi-final draw ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City at Wembley.

Form

Chelsea have won five of their last six in all competitions but have not won any of their last three on the road. Rubin Kazan are fourth in their domestic league and are coming off a dour 0-0 draw with Kuban Krasnodar.

Team News

Benitez will rotate his players with City in mind, with captain John Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard expected to return to the starting line-up. Chelsea must also adapt in defence, where the absences of left-backs Ashley Cole (hamstring) and Ryan Bertrand (illness) force a change.

Key Battle

Fernando Torres has enjoyed his best Chelsea days in cup competitions, with the Europa League particularly profitable for the oft-maligned Spaniard. He scored twice in the first leg and the home side will look to skipper Roman Sharonov to organise his troops to shackle the forward in the return leg.

One to watch

Rubin have vowed to do their utmost in their temporary home to upset Benitez's side and reach the last four. The Russian club have already beaten Atletico Madrid, last season's Europa League champions, in the competition and have the 2012 European Cup-winning Blues in their sights, even though they trail 3-1 from the first leg. Top scorer Bebars Natcho carries their hopes.

Prediction and bet

Rubin are likely to come out flying against Chelsea, knowing an early goal can change the complexion of the tie. Take the home side to lead at half-time but Chelsea to level by full-time at 14/1 with bet365.

Final score: 1-1 (2-4 on agg)

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