Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Benitez focused on final say

RAFAEL Benitez is confident that Chelsea can cope with their hectic fixture pile-up and progress to two cup finals.

The Blues have been drawn against Tottenham's conquerors Basle in the semi-finals of the Europa League after edging past Rubin Kazan 5-4 on aggregate following a 3-2 defeat in Moscow on Thursday.

Benitez immediately turned his thoughts to tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley.

If Chelsea, who are now favourites for the Europa League, can beat City it a cup double will be up for grabs for Benitez, despite the criticism he has received from certain quarters of the Stamford Bridge faithful since taking over as interim boss in November.

Tomorrow's match against a City side who have not conceded a goal in this season's FA Cup will be Chelsea's sixth game in 16 days.

While Benitez concedes City have the benefit of having rested while his players were travelling to Moscow and back, the Chelsea boss believes his team are maturing rapidly.

City beat Chelsea 2-0 in February at Eastlands, with Frank Lampard missing a penalty, but Benitez believes his team have learned from the experience.

Benitez said: "They're a good team and did well against Manchester United the other day. We know it'll be difficult.

"We know what we did wrong against them in the league and we'll make sure we don't make the same mistakes.

"They have a manager with experience and they have confidence at the moment. We know we'll have to do our best if we want to progress."

While Benitez refused to get ahead of himself with his side on the cusp of two cup finals, he added: "In terms of two semi-finals and still in the top three (in the Premier League) we're really pleased."

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