Fernando Torres could be unleashed at Wembley after sending Chelsea into the Europa League semi-finals.
Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez hinted he is ready to turn to Torres after the striker’s fourth-minute opener helped the Blues to a 5-4 aggregate win in their quarter-final with Rubin Kazan, despite a 3-2 defeat in Moscow last night.
Benitez has often rotated Torres and Demba Ba, who is ineligible in Europe, but may be considering leaving the Spaniard in for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City, particularly as Ba is recovering from an ankle knock.
“Fernando did really well,” Benitez said.
“He’s been doing well in the last games, he’s working hard, he’s creating chances for himself and his team-mates.
“We will think what we have to do for Sunday. Still we need to check how Demba is and afterwards we will decide.”
Torres was the difference in the tie, but perhaps his goal – his 19th of the season, fourth in three Europa League games and a strike which meant the Russians needed three to force extra-time – released so much pressure that Chelsea eased off and allowed Rubin’s second-half flourish.
Torres showed the finishing instinct which has so often been lacking during his spell at Stamford Bridge since his £50million transfer from Liverpool when he was found by Frank Lampard’s exquisite pass and lofted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.
The second half was fraught for the Blues as Ivan Marcano and Gokdeniz Karadeniz scored headers either side of Victor Moses’ curled effort and Bebras Natcho netted a 75th-minute penalty to set-up an anxious conclusion.
It appears unlikely Chelsea captain John Terry will start against City, having been in and out of the side of late.
Terry was at far from his best in a collectively shaky defensive display and it is rare to see a defence featuring the former England captain dominated in the air.
“I’m disappointed, because we didn’t defend well second half, but still we go through,” said Benitez, who praised 18-year-old midfielder Nathan Ake and Paulo Ferreira, who played at left-back due to the absences of Ashley Cole (hamstring) and Ryan Bertrand (illness).
“We have to improve on the second half, but not just the defenders, the team defending.”
Rubin repeatedly caused Chelsea problems and had their resurgence come sooner they might have added the Champions League holders to their list of conquests, having beaten 2012 Europa League winners Atletico Madrid earlier in the competition.
Coach Kurban Berdyev said: “I have mixed feelings. We won but I’m really sorry we couldn’t make it through.”