Chelsea boss Benitez prefers Champions League spot over silverware
Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez continues to dream about becoming the Stamford Bridge boss at the end of the season, but for that to happen the Spaniard must show progress at the club.
Chelsea still has a chance to win the FA Cup and the Europa League, but their non-Premier League efforts could see them lose their Champions League spot. Rafael Benitez has declared that his first priority will be to ensure Chelsea qualifies for the Champions League even if it costs the opportunity to win any silverware this season.
Rafael Benitez claims acquiring a top four spot is more important than grabbing silverware. The former Liverpool manager understands Chelsea will suffer from a hectic schedule because of FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League games in the near future.
Chelsea’s hopes of claiming a top four finish were dented by the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday. A win over West Ham United at Upton Park means Tottenham Hotspur have replaced Chelsea at the third spot on the Premier League table.
Now there appears to be a top of the table skirmish for the fourth spot between Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool. All of these are within 10 points of Chelsea and with 11 games left anything is possible.
“If we feel we need to prioritize something we will do it,” Rafael Benitez said after his side fell to Manchester City. “We are playing too many games, games each three days. You have to manage your squad.
“We know that we still have to do our job because Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton are close. It will be tough until the end. We have to show our quality in every competition, this is clear.
“The race for the top four will go to the last day of the season. Our last game is against Everton, so I'm sure that it will be very tight, very close to the end.”
Chelsea defender and captain John Terry was ready to report for duty, but Benitez decided to bench him for the game. Benitez explained his decision by suggesting squad rotation will be vital to Chelsea’s survival in the final few weeks of season.
“We changed players like I did against Sparta Prague (last Thursday),” Benitez added. “Some players have fresh legs and you can play them. We need to keep energy in the side and this is why we made changes and the defeat is disappointing, but we have to keep going.
“This was a chance to get closer to City in second, but now we have to keep fighting for the top four. We knew that by winning we would be even closer but we didn't do it and we didn't play well in the first half.”