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Benitez confident of top-four finish
Published : 02 Feb 2013 08:47:21
Rafael Benitez is optimistic of succeeding in his brief as interim Chelsea manager by securing Champions League football next season.
With Chelsea 13 points behind leaders Manchester United and six adrift of second-spotted Manchester City, Benitez has already conceded defeat in the title race and a top-four place and Champions League qualification is the priority.
"At the moment I am confident we can do it," Benitez said. "We're in the top three at the moment, doing well. I have confidence that we have enough quality and, with the players coming back, we'll have enough options to manage the games, win more games in a row and be in the top four."
Given the fourth-placed Premier League side must negotiate a qualifying tie before advancing to the Champions League proper, a top-three place would be preferable, but Benitez is unconcerned where Chelsea finish, so long as it is in the qualifying places.
"We never play for being in top four; we always play for winning every single game and try to be as high as possible in the table," he said. "If you are in the top four, you have to play a game and normally with the power and quality of your players, it (qualifying for the Champions League) is nearly guaranteed."
Under the Spaniard, Chelsea have amassed fewer points from 12 Premier League matches than under his predecessor, Roberto Di Matteo, in the same number of games.
Draws with Brentford and Reading, who came from two goals down to claim a point on Wednesday, suggest Benitez's confidence might be misplaced.
Yet he was happy with the display at the Madejski Stadium, bar the late lapse which allowed Adam Le Fondre to score for a second time.
"It was a fantastic performance," Benitez said. "The team was in control and doing really well until this last minute.
"It is a lack of concentration for one minute. I don't think it's an issue. Hopefully we will not see it again the rest of the season."