Kerban Berdyev’s Rubin Kazan can field the same team as in the first leg, although Salomon Rondon is likely to replace Vladimir Dyadyun.
Rafael Benitez continues to rotate in Europe, and may feel that progression should be comfortably secured. John Terry, Frank Lampard and Victor Moses have all become regulars in the Europa League and are likely to come in again.
Chelsea’s two goal lead forces Rubin to attack, although they are a naturally conservative side, as only 29 goals in 23 league games will testify. Berdyev will either need to hope for a stand-out performance from his players or look to identify weakness in Chelsea that his team can exploit. Benitez will surely feel an away goal will be enough to guarantee progress to the semi final.
If as anticipated, Ramires is left out in favour of a central midfield pairing of Lampard and Jon Obi Mikel, then Rubin may feel they can overrun Chelsea in the middle of the pitch. Both players are entirely suited to a specific role: Lampard as a rotator of possession now that age has slowed his buccaneering runs, and Mikel as a holding midfielder stationed ahead of the defence.
Mikel and Lampard ultimately lack dynamism, a quality usually provided by the energetic Ramires. If Rubin can disrupt Lampard’s passing rhythm and get bodies around Mikel they can prevent Chelsea’s attacking players from receiving the ball and also attack Benitez’s back four. Should Roman Eremenko continue in an advanced role he should have the defensive quality to apply pressure from an advance position, given that he has spent most of his career in a move defensive role.
Overlapping Full Backs
Chelsea’s biggest area of weakness under former manager Roberto Di Matteo was their weakness out wide, largely due to the failure of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar to adequately protect their full backs. Benitez initially look to remedy this weakness by switching to a 4-4-1-1 and using more reliable players out wide – both Ryan Bertrand and Ramires were used on occasion, and Hazard, the lest responsible of Chelsea’s playmakers, was moved into a central role.
However, possibly due to the realisation that he has no long term future in the job, Benitez dispensed with this plan fairly quickly and reverted to quite an open, attacking system, completely at odds with the conservative and calculating style that he had been known for. As a result Chelsea’s full backs still remain vulnerable, especially on the counter attack. In the first leg Berdyev selected full back Oleg Kuzmin on the right side of midfield, but with goals needed Rubin are likely to revert to two natural wingers, Gokdeniz Karadeniz and Alan Kasaev.
Unlike many other Russian sides, Rubin lack the attacking qualities to really trouble Chelsea’s lead, being as they are much more accustomed to keeping clean sheets and winning by narrow margins. Benitez’s ambition will be interesting – he has all the tools to play for a goalless draw, although the temptation of an away goal will be of some encouragement. Nevertheless the Spaniard is not one to expect undue exertion from his players, especially with an FA Cup semi final on the horizon and the battle for a Champions League place very much alive. Don’t expect a classic.