Rafa defensive after Chelsea defeat – Expects Man Utd to be at best in the FA Cup
Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez refuses to admit mistake in rotating his players during the 2-1 loss to Southampton. The Spaniard is believed to be resting his star players for the mega-match against Premier League leaders Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday.
Rafael Benitez is believed to be prioritizing the FA Cup even though it could prove to be a distraction from acquiring Champions League action for next season.
Chelsea suffered shock defeat on their trip to Southampton mostly because of Rafael Benitez’s relatively new line-up. Less than 48 hours before the Manchester United game, Rafael Benitez decided to bench first-team players like Ashley Coles, David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Ramires. Chelsea’s in-form midfielder Juan Mata was absent from the line-up because of illness.
Rafael Benitez had already informed about significant changes to his line-up before the start of the game. The former Liverpool manager defended his decision and claimed the defeat would not upset Chelsea’s hopes of acquiring a top-four finish.
“I have confidence we will finish in the top four and could win one or two trophies,” Rafael Benitez said. “We're still there and I have confidence and belief in these players, who have quality. But we had to manage the squad and, with these games coming so close together, less than 48 hours apart, you have to make decisions.
“In the Premier League we have more games to play. The FA Cup is just one game. If we'd had three or four days [in between] we could have managed it in a different way. Two days, it's not easy, so you have to make decisions in the squad. Southampton are a good team on one level, but United are another team at another level. I had to find a balance and, in the first half, it was not good enough. The second half, much better.
“Gary Cahill and Juan Mata couldn't play, it's not a question of me resting them. When you don't have one or two players you have to manage the squad. There was an international break, some players were away and others were training, you saw them and I think they were ready in the second half, but not in the first half.”
Rafael Benitez warned his men from complacency against Manchester United. The Spaniard claims his side would have to stay on their toes from start till end in order to earn a place in the FA Cup semi-finals.
“In the first half we didn't have the intensity we were expecting, we improved a lot in the second half and created some chances but we didn't make the right decisions in the final third,” Rafael Benitez said.
“[Against United] it's another competition and another challenge. We know if we win we'll be in the semi-finals. In the league there are a lot of games, I said one month ago it will go until the end of the season and I still think the same.
“The local manager – me in this case – will look for the away manager and try and shake his hand. But if you look at the DVD from that first game, you can see a fact: a photographer talking with him. You will see who was right. But I will go anyway and try and shake his hand. This is a massive game against a very good side in a massive competition.”