Mikel down about Europa League

Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has admitted to struggling for motivation for the club's Europa League campaign.

Last Updated: 08/04/13 at 22:53 Post Comment

John Obi Mikel: Isn't enthusiastic about the Europa League

John Obi Mikel: Isn't enthusiastic about the Europa League

John Obi Mikel has admitted to struggling for motivation for Chelsea's Europa League campaign and is desperate to return to the prime time of the Champions League next season.

A 2-1 win over Sunderland saw Chelsea climb to third in the Barclays Premier League and return to the Champions League qualifying places ahead of knockout action in Moscow and north London this week.

The Blues will bid to complete a Europa League quarter-final aggregate win over Rubin Kazan on Thursday and then continue their FA Cup defence with victory in Sunday's Wembley semi-final with Manchester City.

But Mikel's primary focus is on securing a top-four place in the Premier League and a return to the tournament Chelsea won in 2012.

"Champions league football is what this club has always been involved in and that is what we as players want to achieve," Mikel said.

"We want to be in the top four, top three, whatever. We want to be in the Champions League next season.

"No disrespect to the Europa League, but when you saw that game on Thursday... but when you get that buzz, and you hear the Champions League song, it's different.

"And we have been used to it, to those nights, those special nights, and we want to get them back, we want to be involved again in the Champions League next season.

"I don't even know the Europa League song. I have been here seven years and I have never played football on Thursday nights.

"It has been kind of frustrating to watch them (Champions League matches) - and we have to then play on Thursday night.

"What do they say? Thursday nights Channel 5? Hopefully next season we are not going to be in it - we are going to be prime time."

For Chelsea to return to Europe's elite club competition will require a delicate balancing act, due to their congested schedule.

The Blues on Wednesday travel to Russia seeking to turn their 3-1 home win into an aggregate triumph before returning to London to continue their search for a fifth FA Cup in seven seasons.

Chelsea, by interim boss Rafael Benitez's own admission, were far from their best in their fourth game in eight days against Sunderland, but ground out a victory.

The schedule necessitates rotation, but Mikel believes it is difficult for players being in and out of the side.

"You can say some of us are a bit tired," said Mikel, who in January won the African Nations Cup with Nigeria.

"We knew it was going to be tough with the run of games that we have, so we were kind of prepared for it.

"The manager is doing his job by rotating the team as well, so it keeps some of the players a bit fresh going into every game.

"It is hard to maintain that level. You want to keep that rhythm going, that level going, and when sometimes you have been rested and you come back, you kind of lose that rhythm.

"It is hard to take, but you know it's something that everyone has accepted since the manager came in.

"He said from the start that he was going to rotate the team, so we have to get on with it.

"It's tough but, hopefully, if we can go through this period of games, still in the top three or four, we are going to be pleased with what we have achieved.

"The most important thing is the team. If the team keeps doing well, keeps winning, most especially towards the end of this season now, we need everyone, we need to keep playing and winning games.

"If the team keeps doing that then I am very happy."

Chelsea have been in a similar position before - a season of turmoil building to a crescendo - as recently as last season.

The Blues finished sixth in the Premier League but winning the Champions League in Munich and the FA Cup triumph spared their blushes.

Their only opportunity for Champions League football next term is through the Premier League this season.

Mikel is optimistic of success on all three fronts.

"We have to keep going and believing in what we can do," he said.

"The battle for the top four has always been tough. We knew it was going to be tough, coming to the business end of the season.

"Hopefully if we could get a piece of silverware this season we will be very pleased with ourselves.

"We have to keep going and playing the way we are playing."


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