Despite the Zorro mask, Fernando Torres scored two goals against Rubin Kazan in last Thursday's 3-1 first leg Europa League quarterfinals victory at Stamford Bridge.
Who: FC Rubin Kazan vs. Chelsea FC
What: UEFA Europa League, quarterfinals (second leg)
Where: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia
When: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 17:00 GMT/12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer 2Go, ESPN Deportes (US), ESPN UK / HD, ITV 4 (UK)
Radio: SiriusXM 94 (Internet 94)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Referee: Fırat Aydınus (Turkey)
3-Way Odds: Rubin Kazan +150, Chelsea +160, Draw +188
Total: Over 2½ +110, Under 2½ -149
Decimal Odds: Rubin Kazan 2.50, Chelsea 2.60, Draw 2.88
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 2.80, Under 2½ 1.67
Fractional Odds: Rubin Kazan 3/2, Chelsea 8/5, Draw 47/25
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 11/10, Under 2½ 67/100
Odds To Win Europa League: Chelsea 7/4, Steaua Bucharest 40/1
(Benfica 11/4, Tottenham Hotspur 4/1, Fenerbahçe 13/2, FC Basel 14/1, Lazio 20/1, Newcastle United 40/1)
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Chelsea heads to the Russian capital for Thursday's second leg Europa League quarterfinal match against Rubin Kazan a bit beat up but intent on advancing and with one eye on Sunday's FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City at London's Wembley Stadium.
And the last thing the Blues and Chelsea fans want to see in this one is a 2-0 Tatars victory.
The European champions will be without the services of defenders Ashley Cole (hamstring), Gary Cahill (knee surgery) and quite possibly Ryan Bertrand—who has a virus according the Guardian and will travel with the team and be evaluated right up until kickoff—as well as striker Demba Ba who is cup-tied and also nursing an injury of his own (ankle).
Should Bertrand be unable to go at left-back, Chelsea could either call on veteran Paulo Ferreira or 18-year-old Nathan Aké who has limited experience this season playing for the first team.
With all this in mind, the play and health of captain John Terry, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanović and César Azpilicueta will be crucial for the Blues to move on, despite taking a 3-1 aggregate score with them from the first leg to Russia.
Heading in, Chelsea has won all five of its previous games in this tournament against Russian sides and has allowed just two goals, so, as usual, defense will be the focus and if the Blues can get an early away goal, we all may be learning on how to say "park the bus" in Russian.
And if you're feeling strong about this and would like to get a head start Leonid, it's припарковать автобус.
Good luck with that. I believe I have simultaneously sprained my tongue and chipped a tooth. Please send help immediately. I may not be able to go on here. I'm begging you.
Should Rubin Kazan (12-3-8, currently fourth in the Russian Premier League standings) score first and take a 1-0 lead, well, it will certainly be game on and Chelsea fans can get comfortable with feeling nervous again, something the English Premier League club must by now be getting quite used to.
The big offensive threat for the Tatars, and the guy the Blues had best keep wraps on, is striker Jose Salomón Rondón, a 23-year-old Venezuelan who has scored five times so far in this tournament so Terry and Ivanović or Luiz will need to be at their best in front of goal.
As far as the striker position for Chelsea, Fernando Torres—who has actually played much better in international competitions than he has in the Premier League this year—can again regain hero status for at least a couple of days if he can find a way to put the ball in the back of the net as he did twice in the first leg at Stamford Bridge a week ago.
Against Sunderland on Sunday in West London, the much-vaunted advanced midfield "Mazacar" line of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar looked a bit gassed and with a date with the Sky Blues on the horizon this weekend, who knows who interim manager Rafael Benítez will be starting.
But logic dictates that Mata and Hazard will be in there until the game takes form and if Chelsea can somehow grab a 2-0 or maybe even a 1-0 second-half lead, then Benítez may substitute in Victor Moses, Marko Marin or Yossi Benayoun for one or both of them.
While Chelsea will obviously feel confident with veteran Petr Čech in goal, Rubin Kazan—who are making its first appearance in a quarterfinal of a major European tournament—and manager Kurban Berdyev have their own talented big-guy defending the woodwork in 6-foot-4-inch Sergey Ryzhikov.
Although Chelsea seemingly sort of rolled in the opening leg and enjoy a two-goal aggregate lead heading in, the Tatars cannot be taken lightly. Just ask defending Europa League champions Atlético Madrid and Radamel Falcao who Rubin Kazan sent packing in the round of 32.
And if Mata is the straw that stirs Chelsea's drink, then wily attacking midfielder Gökdeniz Karadeniz is the guy who fills that role for Rubin Kazan (10-8-6, 32 goals for, 18 goals against in Europa League play) so central midfielders John Obi Mikel and either Ramires or Frank Lampard had better keep a body on the veteran 33-year-old Turk.
In the latest UEFA rankings, Chelsea come in at No. 5 while Rubin Kazan is listed at No. 37, but considering Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund and now UEFA Champions League semi-finalist is ranked No. 38, these rankings should be taking with a dose of salt.
A really big piece of salt brother.
Very seldom are draws in any three-way soccer/football line ever priced under +200, but the fact this match has a tie listed at +188 at press time reveals much about how the oddsmakers view this matchup.
What will happen in Thursday's second leg in Moscow?
Chelsea can lose and still advance, and even lose 4-2 (or more just so it scores at least two goals) and still move on (5-5 aggregate, win on away goals), but it's hard to see this one being that high-scoring unless Rubin Kazan can come out with two early first-half goals.
Expect the Blues—who are looking to become the first club in history to win UEFA's two big club competitions in reverse order—to concentrate on defense in Moscow, but to also look for that oh-so important road goal to take a little pressure off knowing City lies in wait on Sunday (Fox Soccer Channel, 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT).
It certainly won't be easy and might even get a little bit distressing at times, but with Torres feeling a little bit better about his lot in life at the Bridge, a two-goal edge heading in and the perennially underrated Čech doing his thing, Chelsea should find a way to head into the semifinals, even if it doesn't win the match.
BET: Draw +188
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1 Rubin Kazan 1
>Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11