Chelsea host Russian side Rubin Kazan in the first leg of a UEFA Europa League quarter final tie, with the second leg scheduled for next midweek. The Blues are in the midst of a difficult run of fixtures and the visiting side will look to take full advantage of what may be a physically and mentally exhausted Stamford Bridge first team.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is scheduled for 8.05pm BST. Live coverage is on ESPN ad ESPN HD.
Chelsea come into this game after a 1-0 defeat of Premier League leaders Manchester United on Monday afternoon, in a FA Cup quarter final replay. Senegal striker Demba Ba scored for the hosts, who will now face Manchester City in the semi final. The FA Cup tie came only a day after the weekend league fixture for Chelsea; they were shocked 2-1 by Southampton on Saturday.
Interim boss Rafael Benitez has overseen progress to this stage of the Europa League with a 3-2 aggregate win over Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti. They lost the first leg, in Romania, 0-1 but recovered to dominate the second leg.
The FA Cup and the Europa League are still well within Chelsea's reach and to win either will go a long way towards salvaging a season that has not been their finest. The club have now the dubious record of being the only defending champion to be eliminated from the Champions League in the group stages and a 22 point gap to league leaders Manchester United only illustrates the work to be done in the summer.
However, the pile-up of fixtures is likely to have some say in the season's fortunes; Chelsea have to play nine games between 1 April and 27 April. Blues' fans will be hoping the impact is not felt on their league performance, given their club has yet to confirm qualification for next season's Champions League - they are fourth on 55 points but both Arsenal and Everton remain within striking distance, two and four points back.
The Blues have won three of the last five games, in all competitions, scoring eight times but conceding five.
Meanwhile, Rubin Kazan have established themselves as serious contenders for the title this season, after eliminating defending champions Atletico Madrid in the second round. The Russians beat the Vicente Calderon side 2-1 on aggregate and then eliminated another Spanish club in Levante in the previous round.
The Russians have a strong record in Europe this season, having lost only once all year long. And they come into this game with three wins and no defeats from their last five games.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L W W D
- Last Match: Chelsea 1 - 0 Manchester United
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W D W W D
- Last Match: FC Rubin Kazan 2 - 0 Lokomotiv Moscow
Ashley Cole was taken off against United with a hamstring problem, meaning youngster Ryan Bertrand will start on Thursday. Captain John Terry will likely retain his place, alongside Brazilian David Luiz; England international Gary Cahill is still injured.
Spain striker Fernando Torres will start up front because Ba is cup-tied this season. And Belgian winger Eden Hazard may be given a break, with one eye on the weekend's league game against Sunderland.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Luiz, Bertrand; Mikel, Ramires; Oscar, Mata, Moses; Torres
The Russians have no major injury worries and will likely field the same side that won last weekend. The good news is Israeli international Bribas Natkho could be in line for a return, after good performances for his country during the international break.
Probable Line-Up: Ryzhikov; Navas, Kuzmin, Kaleshin, Ansaldi; Sharonov, Orbaiz, Eremenko, Karadeniz; Natkho; Dyadyun