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Chelsea vs. Rubin Kazan, Europa League: Preview & Team News

Wherein Gokhan Tore returns to Stamford Bridge; and other trivialities.

Harold Cunningham

Yeah, I have no idea either. I guess Rubin Kazan is a thing, most likely a football thing, and it'll be at Stamford Bridge tomorrow. Or today, depending on your timezone.

So I looked at Rubin Kazan - literally, at the name Rubin Kazan; I hope you didn't expect actual analysis! - and here are the things that popped into my head:

  1. Rubin. Rubin is funny, because it reminds me of Ruben. Ruben itself is not funny, but for some reason I always think of the character lovely collection of stereotypes in Ocean's Eleven (the new one; I'm not THAT old) played by Elliott Gould, who also played Trapper John in the MASH movie ("I wish they wouldn't land these things here when we're playing golf"). Anyway, Ruben says "schmuck" and it's funny. Oh, and I guess it's spelled Reuben. Like the sandwich. I do love me some Reubens.
  2. Kazan. Growing up, I had a friend named Peter Kazan. He wasn't a great friend, but we hung out sometimes as kids would, played football, rode our bikes, played games. Due to my country's historic affiliation with Mother Russia, I was also aware of this city called Kazan. I had always wondered if Peter Kazan was from Kazan. Surely, Kazan can't be his actual last name, I thought, since "kazan" (well, "kazán") means "boiler" in Hungarian, and why would anybody be named Boiler. (Clearly this was before I was aware of Purdue University.) At some point, I eventually confirmed that he was, in fact, not from Kazan. It was disappointing.
  3. Kazan. I also loved geography as a kid, and Kazan was always a favorite. And not just because it meant boiler (and why would anybody name a city after a boiler?, said the kid who lived in a city named after a market-day) or because I thought my buddy Peter was from there, but because it was the capital of Tatar-land. And who doesn't love the Tatars, with their hordes and sauces! My disappointment of finding out that tartar sauce did not come from Tatarstan rivaled my disappointment at discovering that Peter was not from Kazan.

So anyway, here come the Reuben Boilers.

Date/Time: Thursday, April 4th, 20:05 BST; 3:05 P.M. EST; 12:35 A.M. (next day) IST

Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6

TV Information: ESPN (UK); Fox Soccer (USA); TEN Action (India)

Online: FoxSoccer2Go

Meanwhile, similarly downtrodden, the side that Chelsea met last season in the Champions League quarterfinals will host Newcastle United; down in Raul "Hero of Barcelona" Meireles-land, Fenerbahce will meet Lazio (forecast: controversial with a chance of ultra-violence); and of course across fair London, Spurs will host FC Basel. All hands on deck for the AVB Cup!

Rubin Kazan: As they say in CSI, enhance! Let's look at the roster. Goalkeeper? Yep, they have a couple. Don't know them. Defenders? Also present. I've even heard the name Cristian Ansaldi before, but I have no idea where or why. It turns out he has a few caps for Argentina (three!), so perhaps it's not just something I picked up from Football Manager.

Something I definitely did pick up from Football Manager are the brothers Eremenko. When I played/beta tested Football Manager Live, one of the best teams in my gameworld had both Alexei and Roman Eremenko and deployed in a 4-6-0, they ran roughshod over all challengers. Very annoying. They had no right to be that good. Alexei, older, looks like a bit player for Rubin Kazan, while Roman is first choice in the #10 role.

Ahead of the younger Eremenko is a name we should all recognize. Salomon Rondon was linked with Chelsea last summer more than once before eventually making the move from Malaga to the banks of the Volga. Like any true center forward, there's more to his game than just goals and basic statistics, but his five-goal return from 17 doesn't exactly scream "missed opportunity." His rate in Continental competitions is markedly better, another five goals (in 10 appearances) good for a share of fourth place on the Europa League scoring charts. Just to compare, Chelsea's leading scorers in Europe are Oscar (six goals in ten combined appearances in the Champions and Europa Leagues) and Fernando Torres (four goals in ten). Unlike true center forwards of course, there's actually less to Torres's game than just goals and basic statistics. ZING!

Two more names to talk about: Gokhan Tore and Yann M'Vila. Tore, 21, is sometimes brought up as a shining example of some purported failure of Chelsea's youth academy, mostly because he loves to dribble the ball, I guess. He was fun last season at Hamburg but has found the going a bit tougher in Russia since his €6m transfer in the summer: a total of seven appearances and plenty of bench minutes is all he has to show for himself. It's like he's their Marko Marin!

M'Vila, 22, was another player bandied about with regularity in last summer's transfer window. His talent was clear - France doesn't just gift 22 caps to a 22-year-old every day - but rumors of personal issues, scandals, and attitude problems persisted - while France do suspend players for silly things (see: Anelka, Nicolas), M'Vila is currently banned for almost two years, until June 2014! Perhaps it's no surprise that he ended up in Russia in light of such issues. Perhaps it's also no surprise that he's yet to play a single minute for Rubin with the official line blaming a persistent knee injury.

Despite the €12m M'Vila's absence, Rubin Kazan have found plenty of success in 2013 so far. A three-match unbeaten streak combined with the Russian league's second meanest defense has seen them rise to fourth domestically, while in Europe they've battled past (an understrength) Atletico Madrid and Levante to reach the quarterfinals.

Chelsea: We may not know what to really expect from Rubin, but we do know what we can expect from Chelsea: the unexpected! Lose to Southampton one day, beat Manchester United the next day. These are the days of the Rafalution.

We do know that Chelsea are very formidable at home in European competitions, having won 9 of 11 at Bridge since that April day almost exactly two years ago, the day when the great Carlo Ancelotti experiment of playing Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres together ended. Incidentally, both draws during this streak came this season, the first, versus Juventus, proving to be the early nadir of this year's Champions League "campaign," the second, versus Sparta Prague, rescued by Eden Hazard's last gasp thunderbolt.

We also know that Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole will be out (PANIC! Panic?), alongside long-term absentee Oriol Romeu (pretty sure his name has appeared more times in the match previews than all the rest combined) and the cup tied Hero of Monday Night, Demba Ba.

So yeah. In conclusion, KHAAAAANNNNNNNN!


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