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Champions League Group G

Benitez calm over top-four hopes

Rafael Benitez knows Chelsea's Champions League fate could hinge on the Premier League clash with Tottenham.

Last Updated: 08/04/13 at 19:04 Post Comment

Rafael Benitez: Hopeful of a top-four spot

Rafael Benitez: Hopeful of a top-four spot

Rafael Benitez knows Chelsea's Champions League fate could hinge on the Barclays Premier League clash with Tottenham but is relaxed about the twists and turns in the race for the top four.

A win for Arsenal on Saturday saw last season's Champions League winners Chelsea in fifth ahead of their match with Paolo Di Canio's Sunderland on Sunday.

But the Blues returned to third with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge, moving above Tottenham on goal difference after Spurs were held to a draw by sixth-placed Everton.

"We knew that we had to win and especially because they (Tottenham and Arsenal) will continue winning," Benitez told Chelsea TV.

"The main thing for me is the big picture, so keep calm. We have a good team, if we perform at our level we can win against anyone.

"You have some bad games and good games but it will be the same for them.

"We have to carry on. We have one game in hand on Tottenham so if we can do well, especially against them, maybe it's a game that can mean six points."

A date for the Tottenham fixture is still to be determined after Chelsea's progress to Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City forced the game to be rearranged.

Should Chelsea confirm their place in the Europa League semi-finals by completing an aggregate victory over Rubin Kazan on Thursday, the window of opportunity for the Spurs fixture will be small and it will likely take place in the first week of May.

The Sunderland clash was Chelsea's fourth in nine days and third win in three separate competitions at home in seven days, following the FA Cup defeat of Manchester United and the Rubin win.

The Blues players were given a day off today before travelling to Moscow on Wednesday for Thursday's second leg of their Europa League quarter-final with the Russians, with a 3-1 advantage from the first leg.

Benitez is contemplating some changes at Luzhniki Stadium - Rubin's temporary home and scene of Chelsea's 2008 Champions League final penalty shootout loss to Manchester United - in order to protect his squad for the remainder of the campaign.

Benitez said: "We're considering changing system if necessary to put fresh legs on the pitch and be stronger; not be more defensive, to be stronger.

"The difficult thing in this game is everybody thinks it's done. It's not done.

"We'll play on a synthetic pitch. It will be minus five and if they score one goal, we will be under pressure.

"It's important for us to score but the main thing is to approach the game with the right mentality."

Benitez admitted Chelsea were below their best against a Sunderland side fighting to avoid relegation.

There was good fortune about the equalising own goal from Matt Kilgallon and Chelsea's second - the decisive goal - when Branislav Ivanovic used a back-heel to turn a David Luiz shot into the net.

The Serbian defender admitted his seventh goal of the season was not entirely intentional.

"I tried to control it, but the ball was very quick," Ivanovic told Chelsea TV.

"The goal was just a reaction. I saw the ball was coming and I tried to react, maybe to control it, and in the end the ball finished in the net and I am happy about that."

Should Chelsea reach both the May 11 FA Cup final at Wembley and the May 15 Europa League final in Amsterdam, they will play 70 competitive games this term.

Ivanovic insists fatigue is irrelevant and he would be unhappy to finish the campaign without silverware.

"We have five, six weeks to finish the season and we have to stay focused, to be focused on every game," he said.

"If you're tired it doesn't matter at this stage of the season.

"We have to keep going and to fight every game until the end to try to be in the top four.

"We're now in a good way and we've still got a lot of games to play.

"This season will be very disappointing if we don't finish with (a trophy); we've lost a lot of chances to win a trophy.

"Now we have to stay focused and try to win trophies for the fans, for the club and for us as well."


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sn'tthis strange. Last season we were worried that we were stuck with a Dinosaur in Moyes while Liverpool and Everton were disappearing into the distance with their young, spritely managerts, playing football from heaven. Progressive managers, they said. Managers who understand the modern game.........

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eing consistently and unrelentingly dog turd really takes it out of you. Try shadow boxing. That's what it's like watching Liverpool, punching thin air.

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ood list, some crackers in there. For me, I'd have had Steve McManaman for Liverpool away at Celtic in the UEFA cup in 1997. I was in the ground that night and everyone kept screaming at him to make a pass, but he just kept going and going and going...brilliant, and in the dying minutes too.

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