sports blog by andy shenk

Opportunity Knocks for Rubin at Stamford Bridge

In Russian Football on April 4, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Published on Russian Football News. Chelsea – Rubin Europa League quarterfinal preview. Read the entire article here.

“Chelsea Rubin”, and in a week, “Rubin Chelsea”. You’d be hard-pressed to find another English – Russian club pairing with such a pleasant ring to it. Rubin, in fact, takes its name from the same Latin root as ‘ruby’, hence the club’s deep red kits. ‘Chelsea’, meanwhile, originally signified ‘landing place for chalk or limestone’, but its more recent fame as a London neighborhood and popular girls’ name lends it more grace.

Chelsea are the conventional pick tonight, hosting Rubin in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinal tie. The Londoners have faced Russian clubs twice before, CSKA in 2004 and Spartak in 2010, winning all four times by a cumulative 9-1 score. Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 European cup home games, while Rubin, despite claiming Russian Premier League titles in 2008 and 2009, have never advanced this far in Europe before.

Chelsea can also take comfort in earlier Russian – English confrontations this season. Anzhi, 3rd in the league, met both Liverpool and Newcastle, while 2nd-placed Zenit faced Liverpool. Though the Merseysiders dropped out on away goals to Zenit in the Europa League round of 32, they dominated Russia’s most decorated club in recent years for most of the tie. Back in the fall, Liverpool controlled the match against Anzhi at Anfield Road from start to finish, winning 1-0, while a junior squad in Moscow fell 1-0. Against Newcastle, Anzhi looked equals, but went down 1-0 on aggregate.

In contrast to their English counterparts, Russian clubs are open about the Europa League’s importance and traditionally field top squads. That’s a luxury few English Premier League teams can afford, competing weekly in a domestic league that far outshines the Europa League in TV exposure and revenue. And yet, despite commitment to the Europa League, CSKA and Zenit’s triumphs in the last decade notwithstanding, Russia has been unable to regularly advance deep into the competition.

The long Russian winter break is a frequent excuse, but now that Rubin have survived a frigid February and March, securing seven points in three league matches, to go with success in the two-leg ties against Atletico Madrid and Levante, there is optimism that Kurban Berdyev can motivate his men to another shocking result against Chelsea.

Ahead of tonight’s clash at Stamford Bridge, Roman Sharonov, Rubin’s 36-year-old Russian captain, told the press, “There’s no fear. Why be afraid?” Berdyev, who’s been at Rubin since 2001, emphasized the opportunity his club has facing Chelsea, “For Rubin, this is history that we’re creating for ourselves.”

It’s the right attitude for a team that just escaped in the round of 32 against defending Europa League champions Atletico Madrid. Rubin may have defeated Barcelona at Camp Nou in 2009 and won two league titles not that long ago, but Rubin still stand at a crossroads in Russian football.

Continue reading at Russian Football News.

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