Chelsea will be without a recognized left back as they travel to Moscow for the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal tie with Rubin Kazan.
Both Ashley Cole (hamstring) and Ryan Bertrand (virus) are unavailable for the Blues’ quest to defend a 3-1 lead from the first encounter at Stamford Bridge last week. Manager Rafael Benitez has said that he wouldn’t be concerned about throwing 18-year-old Nathan Ake into the side, while center-back David Luiz and veteran right-back Paulo Ferreira are other options.
"David Luiz has played at left-back so maybe he can be an option," Benítez said, according to UEFA’s Web site. "I have an idea, but we will train today, see how everything is and after that we will decide. I don't think it would be a big problem for Ake if he has to play."
Benitez has had to get used to managing his squad in what has been a hectic schedule for Chelsea this season, particularly of late, and will need to do so again with an FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City coming up on Sunday. Gary Cahill remains sidelined, while Demba Ba is ineligible for Thursday.
With Rubin barred by UEFA from playing in their own Tsentrainiy Stadium, the match will be played in a likely largely empty Luzhniki Stadium in Russia’s capital.
For Chelsea it is a return to the venue of their most harrowing night in recent memory where in 2008 they lost the Champions League final on penalties to Manchester United.
It is not an ideal situation for Rubin, but coach Kurban Berdyev is hopeful of getting good support as his side looks to overturn a two-goal deficit against the defending European champions.
“The more matches we play at the Stadion Luzhniki, the more comfortable we feel here,” he said. “We hope the fans from Kazan will come to support us tomorrow -- we also have fans in Moscow -- but Chelsea are Chelsea and we are ready to play them regardless."
Berdyev has no new injury worries with Yann M’Vila and Aleksei Eremenko the only absentees for the side currently fourth in the Russian Premier League.
Rubin Kazan (probable)
D: Kaleshin, Navas, Sharonov, Ansaldi
M: Natcho, Orbaiz
Kasaev, Eremenko, Karadeniz
D: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Ferreira
M: Ramires, Lampard
Moses, Oscar, Benayoun
Prediction: Fernando Torres’ second goal at Stamford Bridge last week to give Chelsea a 3-1 advantage should prove decisive in taking them through to the semifinals. While the limited atmosphere in the Luzhniki may make it hard for Chelsea’s players to get motivated, it is also unlikely to inspire Rubin for a dramatic turn around.
The Russian side carried more of a threat going forward after Solomon Rondon came on at the break in the first leg and he could well start this time around. But even with a rotated lineup, Chelsea should have enough in the tank to secure their progress.
Rubin Kazan 1-1 Chelsea
Where to watch: The Europa League quarterfinal second leg will kick-off at noon ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.