Italians are famous for defensive football, and when teams from Italy set up in a defensive shell, television commentators like to stereotype and refer to them as 'typically Italian' or something along those lines. A similar phenomenon occurs when English sides play a very physical and direct side of football. 'Typically provincial Russian football' is a kind of unholy mash-up of the two styles, and it's exactly what Chelsea will face on Thursday against Rubin Kazan.
Rubin has dispatched of La Liga sides Atletico Madrid and Levante in successive rounds and took four points from Inter Milan during the group stage. They were a thorn in the side of Tottenham Hotspur in last year's Europa League, and in the two years before that, they caused Barcelona constant frustration in the group stages of the Champions League. They're no longer an impressive upstart side. They've been one of the best practitioners of defensive, counter-attacking football in Europe for five years now.
Chelsea come into this match facing massive fixture congestion due to FA Cup play. They have what should be a comfortable league match against Sunderland this weekend, but they were burned for resting players over the weekend, falling to Southampton. Rubin are in good form in the Russian Premier League, having taken seven points from their last three matches to move up to fourth place.
Chelsea injuries and suspensions
Rubin Kazan injuries and suspensions
Out: Alexander Ryazantsev, Yann M'Vila. In doubt: Alan Kasaev
Ashley Cole injured his hamstring at the weekend, while Romeu is out for the season and Cahill is a couple of weeks from returning. Demba Ba is cup tied. Yann M'Vila is also cup tied, while Alexander Ryazantsev and Alan Kasaev are injured.
Match date/time: Thursday, 3 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. local
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, England
TV: FOX Soccer (U.S.), ESPN (U.K.), Sportsnet regional (Canada), NTV Football (Russia)