Rafael Benitez believes that Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Manchester United on Monday proved that his side can still play at a high level despite their intense schedule.
Chelsea will be back in action at home to face Rubin Kazan on Thursday in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal in what will be their third match in just six days.
“When you play one game every two days you have to try it a different way but I am happy with what we are doing at the moment,” Benitez said, according to Chelsea’s official Web site. “It was an important game for us, we won it and we did really well against United and that means we have this level and we can do it.
“We are capable of competing and winning in every competition. The players have to be ready, mentally and physically, and they know how important it is to win every game, how important it is to win trophies and finish in the top three.”
While qualifying for the Champions League would naturally be the priority, Benitez has demonstrated that he is intent on trying to win in the cups too and a strong lineup is expected to be fielded against their Russian opponents at Stamford Bridge.
Ashley Cole is ruled out of the match, however, after being taken off will a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Manchester United. Gary Cahill is still absent with a knee injury, while Demba Ba is ineligible.
Rubin promise to be tough opposition, having already ousted holders Atletico Madrid from the competition before seeing off fellow La Liga outfit Levante.
Manager Kurban Berdyev believes that his side will again relish the tag of underdogs.
"I have been to Chelsea before as a guest of Mr Abramovich and I remember looking at the stadium hoping that one day I could bring my team here.,” he said, according to UEFA’s official website. “This game will create history for Rubin -- and we've got used to not being favorites."
Rubin’s attack will be spearheaded by former Malaga striker Salomon Rondon, who has scored five goals in the Europa League to date.
The side, currently fourth in the Russian Premier League, will be without big January signing Yann M’Vila, however, with the former Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers target sidelined by injury. Forward Alexander Ryazantsev will also miss out.
D: Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry, Bertrand
M: Mikel, Lampard
Moses, Oscar, Hazard
Rubin Kazan (probable)
D: Ansaldi, Sharonov, Navas, Marcano
M: Natcho, Orbaiz
Karadeniz, Eremenko, Kasaev
Prediction: Rubin Kazan have been extremely impressive in the Europa League this season, progressing to the quarterfinals unbeaten. Their away record, while poor domestically, has also been strong, conceding just three goals in five matches. With Venezuela international Rondon up front, they also have a player that has both the physicality and pace to threaten the Chelsea back line.
Meanwhile, Chelsea will be forced to rely on Fernando Torres up front, with the possibility that the influential Juan Mata will be rested. After an incredibly demanding schedule, the Blues may have to travel to Russia with plenty still to do.
Chelsea 1-1 Rubin Kazan
Where to watch: The first leg of the Europa League quarterfinal will kick-off at 3.05 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.