Chelsea return to a sparsely populated Luzhniki stadium on Thursday still scarred by memories of their traumatic Champions League final experience in this arena five years ago but with their interim manager, Rafael Benítez, less concerned with the past and anxious instead to guard his current charges against complacency.
The reigning European champions will seek to protect a two-goal advantage against Rubin Kazan, themselves visitors to the capital, with Uefa having barred them from playing in their own Tsentrainiy stadium 500 miles farther to the east, and the 80,000-seat arena is expected to be at best a quarter full.
Benítez is also concerned that Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City might add to the distraction and, in order to focus minds, intended to tell two or three fringe players on Wednesday night that they would feature against Rubin before naming his full side on the day of the game.
"It's something we have to cope with," said Benítez when asked about the particular circumstances surrounding this game, not least the reality that it will be played at the neutral venue with Rubin's normal ground still suffering the effects of a brutal Russian winter. "We will not get the extra motivation you normally get from a big, full stadium. It will be a bit strange. It could be an advantage but it could also be that the players end up with too much relaxation and go out there without the proper approach. That is something we have to be aware of and make sure we have the proper focus.
"When the players walk out and it's not what they are used to or normally expect it is not easy. We have to send a message across to our players and then hopefully, at the beginning of the game, they will realise they need to concentrate. We cannot lose focus even if there is another important game on Sunday. Sometimes even the players think: 'If I play in this one I won't play in the next one,' but sometimes it's not the case. The situation is less clear. Some will have to play two games in four days and the players will have to perform and be ready for both. They have to be ready for all the games."
Benítez will choose between Paulo Ferreira, more normally a right-back, or Nathan Aké – whose only senior start, against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in February, was in central midfield – at left-back with Ashley Cole hamstrung and Ryan Bertrand still ill and omitted from the travelling party. Of the 19-man squad seven were at the club back in 2008 when Avram Grant's team succumbed on penalties to Manchester United at the Luzhniki, with John Terry infamously fluffing the chance to win the club's first European Cup in the penalty shoot-out.
Chelsea and Terry have been back since they beat Spartak here in a Champions League group game in 2010 but not for a knockout tie that could potentially culminate in another shoot-out. "If it is necessary, [Terry] will take one," said Benítez. "The first thing I do is ask them. If they all say yes, you have a number of players but you need to know if they are convinced. Hopefully we will not have that problem."
Rubin have lost only three of their last 22 European home games, though those defeats did come in fixtures switched to the capital, and Chelsea are wary about the artificial turf on which they must play. "It won't be easy; they're more used to playing on astroturf," said Victor Moses. "I've certainly never played on it before, so it's a new experience." You've got to be aware of (not turning) your knees, and be careful. It might also be a little harder to control the ball. But it's a game of football in the end. We have to show our quality and go out to win it."
Rubin Kazan (4-1-4-1; probable): Ryzhikov; Kuzmin, Sharonov, César Navas, Ansaldi; Orbaiz; R Eremenko, Kasaev, Natcho, Karadeniz; Rondon.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1; probable): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Ferreira; Mikel, Lampard; Moses, Oscar, Benayoun; Torres.