Blues face Russian test in bid for Euro sweep

Chelsea continue their mission to be the first English team to win all three continental titles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 4:25am


Chelsea will resume their quest to become the first British side to win all three major European club competitions when they host Russian hopefuls Rubin Kazan in their Europa League quarter-final, first-leg tie tonight.

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.

Despite a forgettable Premier League campaign, Rafael Benitez's maligned tenure at Stamford Bridge still has the Blues in the hunt for domestic and European silverware after Chelsea despatched rivals Manchester United on Monday to progress to the last four of the FA Cup.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech, who helped preserve the Blues' 1-0 victory over United, insists the defending European champions will enter tonight's fixture in a positive frame of mind.

"It's always important to beat big teams for the confidence. We are not having such a fantastic season in terms of the league, but [the win over United] shows we can still beat the top teams and it gives us confidence to play another game [tonight]," he said.

In Rubin, Chelsea face a side who have already eliminated holders Atletico Madrid and one who are unbeaten in five European away games.

Of the eight teams left in the competition, Tottenham are the only club to have previously lifted the trophy, when it was known as the Uefa Cup (1971-72 and 1983-84).

Spurs host Swiss pacesetters Basel in the first leg, a pairing that ostensibly favours Andre Villas-Boas' men.

"I think hopefully going past Basel would mean a lot to the club - being present in a European semi-final. We dream of winning trophies so our focus on the Europa League won't shift," said Villas-Boas.

Tottenham will welcome back Gareth Bale from suspension.

Meanwhile Newcastle, the third English team left in the tournament, face Portuguese high-flyers Benfica in Lisbon.

Manager Alan Pardew claimed his team's European adventure had come at a cost to Newcastle's league performances but stressed his approach wouldn't change even with the club's top-flight status still not assured for next season.

"It has cost us points and without a shadow of a doubt we would not be in this position if we were not in the Europa League," said Pardew.

"However, we are and we've approached the Europa League every time to try and win the game.

"You can fault us for that, but we think that's the right approach and we will carry that forward into [tonight's match]."

Lazio - the only team unbeaten in this year's competition - travel to Fenerbahce in tonight's other quarter-final.