Rafael Benitez has backed Chelsea can win the Europa League and finish in the Premier League’s top four, arguing that the FA Cup semi-final loss against Manchester City demonstrated that they have ‘the legs’ for the job as the Blues rallied to battle back against Roberto Mancini’s side and were perhaps unfortunate not to force extra-time.
The loss in the FA Cup was obviously a big negative but Benitez believes that the squad has to focus on the remaining competitions and says that at least the elimination has eased the hectic fixture congestion a little.
Benitez remains positive, he was quoted on ESPN‘s website:
“We wanted to go to the final, like in the Europa League, but we have to keep an eye on the Premier League as well.
“Now we have one less competition. We lost against a good team, did well, and deserved another goal in the second half. We take the positives. Next is Fulham and that’s the priority now: the Premier League.
“Obviously, after the [City] game and the day after, we were really disappointed and a bit sad because we were very close. The day before the game against Fulham today, we’re ready, focused, concentrating and just thinking about this game.”
The Spaniard revealed that he was surprised that Chelsea started so slowly against City and took such a long time to kick into gear but says that the second half performance was something to be proud of as it showed character and the players must learn from this latest disappointment.
“I thought we were ready, physically and mentally, against City and had to adapt at half-time. But you could see the reaction of the team. We have to start from the beginning, not just in the second half.
“If you analyse our reaction in the second half, we saw quality, character and energy. Managing the squad is part of our job and you can see we still have the legs and some determination to win games.
“I think we have good ideas in terms of what we want to do. We know our players much better and what we can expect from them. Hopefully it will be enough. We have quality and you saw the other day we played at our level. We can put any team under pressure.”
He was then asked about Sergio Aguero’s two-footed lunge on David Luiz on Sunday but refused to comments on the referee’s failure to send the Argentine off as he says the disciplinary procedure is out of his hands. He did however comment on Aguero being available for selection when Manchester City player Tottenham, who are currently competing with Chelsea for a top four spot in the Premier League.
Top four is obviously Chelsea’s priority but do you fancy our chances in the Europa League?