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Mar 16, 2013

Benitez wary of 'strong' Rubin Kazan

Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez admits his side will not be taking Rubin Kazan lightly in the Europa League, despite their opponents languishing in sixth place in the Russian Premier League.

• Hazard: Europa draw not ideal
• Europa League draw
• Cahill: Fixtures hampered Rafa

The Blues will host the Russian side in the first leg of their quarter-final tie on April 4 and Benitez believes Rubin's victories over Levante and Atletico Madrid in the Europa League do not reflect their stuttered domestic season.

"At this stage of the competition every game is tough," he told Chelsea's official website. "They are a good team; they beat Atletico Madrid, and we know they are a strong team.

"They beat Levante, who are doing very well in La Liga, and they also finished ahead of Inter in the group stages. They are sixth in the Russian league, which isn't fantastic, but they have some good players. The good thing is that we play the first leg at home.

"In another situation you would prefer to play the second leg at home, but in this case, because we have to play so many games, it could be good that we don't have to travel.

"We don't know yet where we will play. If it's in Moscow it will be a synthetic pitch, and if it's in Kazan it will be on natural grass, so we are waiting to hear."

Following the Europa League draw, Benitez turned his attention to Sunday's Premier League clash with West Ham, urging his charges to reverse the 3-1 defeat at Upton Park earlier this season and reclaim third place from Tottenham.

"We have had a good week against Manchester United and Steaua Bucharest so if we can do well against West Ham it will send out a positive message for the rest of the season," Benitez said. "We don't have much time to rest or recover because we are playing every three days but we have to keep a high intensity in every game.

"It was a very physical game when we lost at West Ham earlier in the season but we had enough chances to have won that day. We know it will be tough again tomorrow but we can do different things to get a better result this time."

David Luiz admits Chelsea's busy season has taken its toll on the players but he insists their recent run of form has provided ideal preparation to defeat West Ham.

"Here at Chelsea we don't have as many players as the other teams. We have maybe 22 or 23 in our squad when others have 30," the defender said. "That makes things difficult for the coach because he does not have so many options when we are playing a game every three days.

"But I am OK. I'm only 25 years old and my legs are feeling good. Sometimes before a game I might feel tired but the minute I am on the bench or not involved in a game at all, then suddenly I'm not weary at all!

"For me, it's not mentally or physically tiring. It's amazing. I don't like to train because that's boring but I love to play games and I would play a match every day of the week if I could. We have had some good results lately and West Ham is another big game for us so we have to keep winning.

"Not many players in the world have the opportunity to take part in so many big games and it is at times like this that you must play with all your heart. Against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday night I looked into the eyes of my team-mates at half-time and I could see they could score more goals and we could win this game.

"By looking people straight in the eye, that is the time you can see them most honestly. And even though we had just conceded a goal and were feeling bad, I knew that we had the strength to go back out and win the game.

"Against Manchester United in the FA Cup last Sunday, they scored two goals in the first 11 minutes and might have killed the game. But Chelsea showed a lot of quality to come back from that situation. We controlled the game in the second half at Old Trafford and showed the true potential of the players we have here."

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