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… (Read more)
European competition is often used as a measure of a league’s strength. Champions Manchester City’s early exit in the Champions League didn’t bode well for the Premier League’s claim to be the world’s best, and other clubs have done little to dispel this as anything other than a myth. Manchester United defied doubters to avoid defeat away to Real Madrid and Tottenham secured the draw required to seal an aggregate victory against a competitive Lyon side, but Newcastle and Chelsea laboured against moderate opposition. Liverpool fought in vain to overturn a first leg deficit against Zenit St. Petersburg, whilst Arsenal were utterly outclassed by Bayern Munich… (Read more)
It isn’t often the reigning Premier League Champions will base their team selection on a routine cup victory over lower-league opposition, but then Manchester City have rarely acted like reigning Champions this season. Jolean Lescott appears to fall further out of favour as Kolo Toure overtakes him in the central defensive pecking order, although Vincent Kompany’s mooted return from injury would see them both dropped to the bench. Elsewhere Roberto Mancini may finally be persuaded to persist with a forward pairing of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, and Gareth Barry’s poor form may see him dropped in favour of Javi Garcia.
Rafael Benitez has struggled to settle on a favoured system let alone a preferred starting XI during his few months at Chelsea. Initial attempts to withdraw the wide forwards into a 4-4-1-1 appear to have been abandoned, but Benitez will still need to decide between fielding Chelsea’s ‘three amigos’ of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar behind a lone striker or selecting Victor Moses as a natural wide option. Alternatively the Spaniard could opt for caution and deploy either Ramires or Ryan Bertrand in a wide midfield role as he has done on previous occasions. Defensively Benitez still seems unsure of his best back four, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic in contention for the right back slot, and Gary Cahill, David Luiz and John Terry options at centre back. In attack the Demba Ba/Fernando Torres debate continues… (Read more)
Transfer activity is often a fascinating way to identify a teams’ tactical ambition as a club’s transfer policy is dependent on the manager’s approach. A systemic manager’s priority is to sign players that are better adapted to their style of play, and thus improves the strength of the team not necessarily by signing better quality players, but by signing better fitting players. An adaptable manager is less focused on tactical suitability as they are happier modifying their game-plan to suit the players at their disposal, and therefore can use the transfer market solely to improve the quality of the squad. In reality few managers are strictly one or the other and tend to be a mixture of the two, but the contrasts were still evident in the January transfer window… (Read more)
It may not have gone unnoticed that despite the Roman Abramovich’s desire to produce attractive attacking football, the most successful periods his Chelsea stewardship have been through the defensive solidity of the Jose Mourinho era and the backs-to-the-wall displays that lead to last seasons Champions League title. However, you have to admire Abramovich’s persistence. Chelsea have returned to their big-spending habits on the back of their first European triumph with a series of high profile signings leaving Roberto Di Matteo with arguably the clubs finest array of attacking talent in years…(Read more)