Date: 15th May 2013 at 1:00pm
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Benitez-IvanovicChelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic is hoping that his side can win the Europa League final tonight and give Rafael Benitez a good send off.

The Spaniard’s contract expires at the end of the season and Jose Mourinho is the favourite to replace him, and the divisive manager has a chance to end up time at Stamford Bridge on a high having already wrapped up Champions League football for next season.

Benitez isn’t ever going to win over all of the fans at the club but it does feel as though everyone has just been getting on with it over recent months and we have ended the season strongly, so it would be disingenuous to not give him any credit whatsoever. Roberto Di Matteo’s side weren’t far from the top when he was sacked but we’ve seen since that Benitez had a horribly unbalanced squad to contend with and I don’t think the lads looked fit, which could explain what was perceived as a lack of effort throughout the winter.

Ivanovic goes as far as saying the Interim One deserves applause for his efforts:

“It would be great for Rafa to end his time at Chelsea after all his work with a trophy. He has done very well and I think we have improved a lot as a team. It is not easy to take over a club like Chelsea in the middle of the season. As players we’re used to it and ready because it is a normal situation here (Ivanovic has played for seven managers since joining in January 2008).

“If we win the trophy, of course, you have to say he has done a good job. But let’s do it first. For us it’s a huge game. We are professional and have to be like that, to stay focussed from the first day until the last day. We’re thinking about pushing ourselves and putting us in a good position for next year.

“Everything has happened to us this season but this is a great opportunity to finish the season well.”

(Evening Standard)

The Blues have already fallen short in the UEFA Super Cup, FIFA World Club Cup, UEFA Champions League, Capital One Cup, FA Cup and didn’t challenge for the Premier League title this time around. However, the Serbian international says that the squad’s confidence remains high and they’re determined to right at least some of the wrongs by capitalising on their final chance to pick up silverware this season but is expecting no favours from a tough Benfica side that tested us in the Champions League quarter finals last year.

“This is our chance to finish the season well. The end of a season is huge for every team. We have one more opportunity and I hope we have learned something from the other games this year.”

He added:

“It was very tough to beat them in the Champions League last year and will be again.

“We all remember the game in Lisbon and at Stamford Bridge. They played very attacking football with huge quality.

“Benfica have a mix of young and experienced players, but the fact they had an important game against Porto last weekend makes it an interesting challenge for them.”

Do you agree with Ivanovic and are you confident that Chelsea can win the Europa League against Benfica in tonight’s match at the Amsterdam ArenA?

Source: Evening Standard