Chelsea will resume its quest to become the first British side to win all three major European club competitions when it hosts Russian hopeful Rubin Kazan in its Europa League quarterfinal first-leg match on Thursday.
Last season’s Champions League triumph left the west Londoners with just Europa League honours missing from the club’s trophy cabinet, having already lifted the now-defunct Cup Winners’ Cup on two occasions — 1970/71 and 1997/98.
Rafael Benitez’s maligned tenure at Stamford Bridge still has the Blues in the hunt for both domestic and European silverware after Chelsea despatched rival Manchester United on Monday to progress to the last four of the FA Cup.
Chelsea will likely to be without defensive duo Ashley Cole (hamstring) and Gary Cahill (knee) for both legs of the clash.
In Rubin, Chelsea faces a side that has already eliminated holder Atletico Madrid and one that is unbeaten in five European away games.
Tottenham hosts Swiss pacesetter Basel in the first leg, a pairing that ostensibly favours Andre Villas-Boas’s men. Tottenham will welcome back Gareth Bale from suspension after the Welsh star missed Spurs’ 4-1 defeat at Inter Milan that saw the north Londoners limp through on away goals.
Basel has never defeated an English side on its travels, but Manchester United’s untimely Champions League exit at the hands of the Swiss outfit last season should serve as a warning not to underestimate it.
Newcastle faces Portuguese high-flyer Benfica in Lisbon.
Portuguese table-topper Benfica is unbeaten in the league this season, while its 13-match unbeaten home run in the Europa League dates back to the advent of the re-branded competition.
Lazio — the only team unbeaten in this year’s competition — travels to Fenerbahce in Thursday’s other quarterfinal. — AFP
Chelsea vs Rubin Kazan
Tottenham vs Basel
Benfica vs Newcastle
Fenerbahce vs Lazio