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Rafa coy on Europa selection

Rafael Benitez has offered no guarantees that John Terry and Frank Lampard will play in next week's Europa League final.

Last Updated: 09/05/13 at 18:42 Post Comment   

Rafael Benitez: No guarantees

Rafael Benitez: No guarantees

Rafael Benitez has offered no guarantees that captain John Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard will play in next week's Europa League final.

Terry missed Chelsea's 2012 Champions League final victory through suspension and Lampard, who is closing in on Bobby Tambling's 202-goal club goalscoring record, is in the final weeks of his current contract, with uncertainty over whether his stay at Stamford Bridge will be extended.

Benitez suggested there was no room for sentiment in his team selection, confirming only that Lampard would start at Aston Villa on Saturday and that the full team for the Barclays Premier League match and next Wednesday's Europa League final with Benfica in Amsterdam is still to be determined.

"What I can say is that Lampard will play against Aston Villa and I cannot say anything about the final," Benitez said. "The only player that I can guarantee today who will play against Aston Villa is Lampard. The final, I don't know. I haven't decided [the team] yet."

Former England captain Terry has not started in the last three games and was an unused substitute in last night's 2-2 draw with Tottenham.

Benitez declined to reveal his defensive preferences.

"The competition in this position is really hard here," he said.

"[Gary] Cahill, [Branislav] Ivanovic, David Luiz, they are doing well, too.

"Now we have four centre-backs, they have to compete and they are doing well."

If Terry's motivation for the final is to play a part before lifting the trophy - unlike in Munich, when he was a spectator before changing for the celebrations - Lampard has a personal landmark to reach.

The midfielder, who will be 35 in June, is one short of Tambling's record mark with three games remaining.

Benitez again backed Lampard to break the record and hopes it can be accomplished against Villa - to make his final team selection more straightforward.

"I have confidence that he will do it," Benitez said.

"He can play one more game and after see what will happen in the other two [games].

"If he can score against Aston Villa it will be easier for me in the last two games.

"If he scores two goals against Aston Villa, we'll begin to talk about what we will do.

"I will do what I have to do to win games and if at the same time I can help Frank, I will do it."

Chelsea hope victory at Villa Park will confirm their Champions League return, after a draw with Spurs delayed their bid to seal a top-four place.

Benitez expects the retirement of Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov - following his battle against acute leukaemia - to have a galvanising effect as Paul Lambert's side bid to preserve their Premier League status, but believes Chelsea's desire is also strong.

Benitez said: "They have enough motivation. For some of them it will be a little bit more [because of Petrov's announcement].

"For us we have our own motivation and we will try to do our job anyway.

"All of them [the three remaining games - against Villa, Benfica and Everton] are important, but the main one will be Aston Villa.

"It was a pity yesterday, because I think we should have won the game, but we have to do it against Aston Villa and try to be sure that we will be in the top four, top three and concentrate on the final.

"We know that it's really important but at the same time we know that we have to win one game.

"If we can win against Aston Villa, it will be easier to approach the final with confidence.

"If we cannot, still we have another chance, and even with a draw and a win, with the goal difference, we can finish third.

"We're in a very good position. We want to be in a better position by winning against Aston Villa."

Chelsea may be without Eden Hazard (calf) and Victor Moses (leg) for the trip to Birmingham, while Ryan Bertrand (knee) remains out.

Yet with players playing for a final place, they have plenty of quality to win at Villa Park.

Benitez, who will depart at the end of the campaign, is content with Chelsea's current position, but knows there is still work to do to finish the season - and his spell in charge - in the Champions League and with silverware.

He said: "We're pleased where we are at the moment. Hopefully we can be happy at the end."


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