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Resolute Rubin will prove tough for overworked Chelsea to crack

It’s a somewhat beleaguered Chelsea side that welcome Rubin Kazan to the Bridge this evening and it’s been suggested that Rafa Benitez will make some alterations to the side that prevailed against Manchester United on Monday afternoon, with the injured Ashley Cole replaced by Ryan Bertrand, Fernando Torres coming in for the cup-tied Demba Ba and John Terry likely to start alongside David Luiz.

Chelsea had dominated their rivals for much of the second half in that contest, but seemed lacking in the mental freshness to make the attacking decisions which would see them add to their lead, with Juan Mata particularly culpable of undoing his own good work.

They’ll need to be at their most incisive if they’re to claim a first leg against Kerben Berdyev’s Rubin side, who’ve yet to lose in five Europa League away matches this term and kept clean sheets in three of the last four of those fixtures. Rubin are 24/5 to to shut out the Blues in London.

Chelsea have been tough to resist at Stamford Bridge of late, taking respite from their away inconsistencies in a nine match unbeaten streak which has included seven wins. Coral make them 8/15 for victory this evening. However a solid home record will hold little fear for Rubin, who were the first side in 21 to emerge from Atletico’s Madrid Ramon Calderon stadium unbeaten, when they pulled off an unexpected 2-0 win in the first knockout round. The visitors can be backed at 29/20 in the double chance market or 6/1 for the win.

Chelsea will need to pay close attention to the whereabouts of Jose Salomon Rondon who is joint top scorer in this competition with five goals, half of his seasonal total in all competitions. The Venezuelan, signed from Malaga during the summer, can be backed at 7/1 to score first/last and 2/1 to register at any time during tomorrow’s hostilities.

If Chelsea manage to land a blow (and they’ll need to against foes who’ve conceded just one goal in five European home games this term) a moment of wizardy may be their best hope of doing so. Oscar has often been that man for Rafa Benitez’s outfit this term in continental action with six goals in 10 games including a brace of thunderbolts against Juventus.