Rafael Benitez has told his Chelsea players he wants them to carry on showing the passion which allowed them to scrape into the semi-finals of Europe’s secondary club competition.
His team suffered a 3-2 quarter-final second-leg loss to Rubin Kazan in Moscow but went through 5-4 on aggregate. Newcastle drew 1-1 with Benfica but went out and Tottenham took Basel to extra-time in Switzerland.
It was a fraught night for Chelsea nonetheless as Frank Lampard and David Luiz had a heated exchange while leaving the Luzhniki Stadium pitch at half-time and they suffered a series of serious scares by conceding three times after the break.
Benitez was critical of the way his team defended but not their in-fighting. He said: “It’s always good to have players arguing about things that can happen on the pitch. You can correct these things at half-time. We were talking about that, we were adjusting positions so it’s not a problem.”
Chelsea are now in a third semi-final of the season – four, if you include the Club World Cup – after advancing to the last four of the Capital One Cup and FA Cup. That Cup game, against Manchester City on Sunday will be their sixth game in just 16 days and their 59th match of the season.
But the manager says they must improve for the Wembley tie. “We have to stop crosses and deal much better with them - things we couldn’t do against Rubin,” said Benitez. “We have to improve on our second-half performance. I’m disappointed.
“It is not just the defenders who have to improve, because it is the whole team who defends.”