wherever Rafael Benitez goes he cannot escape the history achieved at Liverpool, not even ahead of Chelsea’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Rubin Kazan in Moscow this evening.
Benitez was an unpopular appointment at Stamford Bridge due to his prior association with Liverpool – a side he led to the Champions League title in 2005 after a controversial semi-final defeat of the Blues.
Speculation has mounted in recent weeks over where Ben-itez will go next, and he did not totally dismiss the prospect of a return to Liverpool this week, in part because his family home remains in the north-west.
A local journalist informed Benitez that Russian Liverpool fans are intending to attend the match at the Luzhniki Stadium – where Chelsea lost the 2008 Champions League final to Manchester United – and, asked about a return to Anfield, the Spaniard, wearing a wide smile, said: “I have my family in Liverpool so that is my home and I will come back to Liverpool any time. Just to clarify: I’m talking about my home, where my family is, not the team.”
Chelsea’s 3-1 lead is commanding, but Rubin Kazan are difficult opponents as Inter Milan, 2012 Europa League winners Atletico Madrid and Levante have found out. Kazan are playing away from home, due to inclement weather 500 miles further east in their home city.
In Switzerland, Tottenham are seeking to pull off an improbable victory against Basel which would see the club move into their first European semi-final in 29 years.
Basel stunned Spurs in last week’s first leg, racing to a 2-0 lead inside 35 minutes. The Swiss champions then wasted a series of opportunities to effectively kill the quarter-final off, but Emmanuel Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson scored to leave the tie delicately poised at 2-2.
Adebayor followed up his strike against the Swiss with another well-taken goal against Everton, and, had it not been for the woodwork, his tally would stand at three in his last two.
Spurs will be more reliant than ever on Adebayor as star trio Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe are all out through injury.
Newcastle head into their second-leg clash with Benfica trailing 3-1 after last week’s trip to Lisbon, knowing a side which has not lost in 31 games in all competitions stands between them and their dreams of a place in the last four.
Only star-studded Barcelona have beaten Jorge Jesus’ men by two goals this season, winning 2-0 in the Champions League at the Estadio da Luz in October three weeks before Spartak Moscow inflicted their last defeat.