Friday, March 15, 2013

Europa League: Fenerbahce draw Lazio; Rubin are handed tough Chelsea tie

The UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie has been tough to Eastern European sides, pitting Rubin Kazan against Premier League side Chelsea, while Fenerbahce must face Lazio of Serie A.

Rubin have struggled in an ever-improving Russian Premier League this season, but were impressive in the Europa League group stages, going undefeated in Group H, which also contained the somewhat distinguished Internazionale Milan. Rubin also impressed by eliminating title holders Atletico Madrid, but were very poor in their narrow victory over Levante in the round of 16. Rubin have seen one major reinforcement arrive in the form of French defensive midfielder Yann M'Vila, who will add both creativity and defensive ability to Rubin's currently unbalanced midfield.

Rubin truly could not have received a more dangerous attacking opponent than Chelsea. With attacking talent such as Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, Chelsea currently sit fourth in the English Premier League, just two points behind fellow Europa League quarter-finalists Tottenham Hotspur with a game in hand. The issue for Rubin, however, will not be containing Chelsea's attacking talent, but unleashing their own. Rubin sit as the second strongest defence in the Russian Premier League, but have found goals somewhat hard to come by, with Vladimir Dyadyun and Salomon Rondon both misfiring so far this season. Travel will also be difficult for Rubin, having to travel all the way across Europe just two days before their away match against Kuban Krasnodar in the league.

Fenerbahce have been handed a somewhat easier tie in Lazio, however they are still in tough spot regarding the Italian side's attacking talent. Libor Kozak has been scoring for fun in the knock out stages so far, topping it off with a hat-trick against Stuttgart. The ever-present Miroslav Klose will also be a likely threat to Fenerbahce's aging backline, but the presence of a superior midfield will go some way to balancing the tie. Fener will likely look to the midfield trio of Raul Meireles, Mehmet Topal and Miroslave Stoch to control the centre of the park, whilst asking the attacking trio of Moussa Sow, Dirk Kuyt and Milos Krasic to cause damage to Lazio's inconsistent defence.

The fixtures will take place on the 4th and 11th of April, with Fenerbahce playing at home in the first leg and Rubin playing at home in the second. The full fixture list is as follows:
Chelsea - Rubin Kazan
Tottenham Hotspur - FC Basel
Fenerbahce - Lazio
Benfica - Newcastle United

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