Benitez demands focus from Chelsea
Rafael Benitez has urged his Chelsea side to make a fast start against Fulham in the Barclays Premier League and learn the lessons from the Wembley defeat to Manchester City.
Chelsea relinquished their hold on the FA Cup with a 2-1 semi-final loss to City, but came close to forcing extra-time with a late revival. The Blues have little time to dwell on the defeat ahead of the west London derby at Craven Cottage, where victory and a consolidation of a top-four place and Champions League football next term is the main agenda.
"It was a surprise because I thought we were ready physically and mentally," Benitez said of the FA Cup defeat. "We had to adapt things at half-time. We conceded an early goal (in the second half), but after you could see the reaction of the team. That means we were ready, but you have to start from the beginning, not just the second half."
The Fulham fixture is Chelsea's 60th of a congested season, but Benitez believes the second-half revival proved fatigue is not an issue as he continues to manage his squad.
"If you analyse our reaction in the second half we showed quality, character and energy," Benitez said. "To manage the squad is part of our job and still we have some legs and some determination to win games.
"We have had a lot of games and we still have nine or 10 games to play. All the squad, all the players will be important. They (Terry and Lampard) have been important and it has to be the same until the end. A lot of players have done a great job and they have to do a great job until the end, all of them."
Benitez was celebrating his 53rd birthday on Tuesday, with one hope, he said: "My wish is to win every game until the end of the season."
Should the Blues achieve that, they will qualify for the Champions League and win the Europa League. Victory on Wednesday would take Chelsea three points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, whom they play in the penultimate week of the season, on May 8.
"We wanted to go to the final, like in the Europa League, but at the same time you have to keep an eye on the Premier League," Benitez said. "Every game is important until the end of the season. Obviously this one, if we win we will be in the top three again."
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