History-seeking Chelsea targets Europa semis
Updated: 2013-04-11 07:21
By Agence France-Presse in Paris (China Daily)
Chelsea can take a step closer to becoming only the fourth side to win all three of UEFA's major club competitions by cementing a place in the Europa League semifinals when it travels to Rubin Kazan on Thursday.
Only Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich can count Champions League, Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Cup triumphs among their list of honors, but Chelsea is well positioned to add its name to that elite group as it heads to Russia with a 3-1 advantage from the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
"We have established a good lead. We know that the second leg will be difficult away from home, so it was important to get the victory and score three goals," said Brazilian midfielder Ramires.
"Obviously we want to qualify for the Champions League, but we don't want to forgo the trophies that we are chasing either," said the 26-year-old, sounding a slightly different tone than teammate John Mikel Obi after the Nigerian revealed his indifference towards Europe's second-tier competition.
"No disrespect to the Europa League ... but when you get that buzz, and you hear the Champions League song, it's different.
"It has been kind of frustrating to watch (Champions League matches) - and we have to then play on Thursday night," Mikel said.
History overwhelmingly favors Rafa Benitez's side, with the Blues having won all five previous encounters against Russian opposition and Rubin, despite an 18-game European unbeaten run in Kazan, far less dominant in Moscow, the venue for Thursday's return leg, having lost three of its past four matches at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Chelsea's London rival Tottenham faces a significantly sterner challenge as it makes the trip to Basel to face the Swiss league leader with its last-eight tie evenly poised at 2-2 after Spurs recovered from a two-goal deficit at White Hart Lane last week.
Adding to Andre Villas-Boas' problems is the absence of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and William Gallas after the trio sustained injuries in the first leg.
However, January arrival Lewis Holtby remained confident Tottenham could still secure its place in the last four.
"We are good away from home, we have got some good results this season so we're still positive and our confidence is high," said the German international.
(China Daily 04/11/2013 page22)