Benitez says his Chelsea players deserve silverware
Interim manager Rafael Benitez believes Europa League glory would be just rewards for Chelsea's players.
The west Londoners will face Benfica in the final in Amsterdam on May 15 after navigating their way past Basle. Mohamed Salah, the scourge of Tottenham at the quarter-final stage, put the Swiss side ahead in the semi-final second leg, only for a flurry of goals in a nine-minute period to secure Chelsea's progress.
Fernando Torres and Victor Moses netted in quick succession, before David Luiz curled home an exquisite third to set up a final with his former club, with the semi-final ending 3-1 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate. "I am really pleased to be there," Benitez said of the final.
"I think we have worked so hard during the year to be in finals and semi-finals, and now we're in another final. I think the players deserve to be there. I'm really pleased for the players and everybody here. It's an opportunity for the club.
"It'll be tough because Benfica are a very, very dangerous team and hard to play against, but at least we are there. With the commitment and the quality, we'll have a chance for sure.
"I will go back home and try to be ready for tomorrow. We have another game on Sunday. When you play two games a week, it's not as if you can have the team and train with them. You have to give them recovery time the day after matches. We just have to recover players and be ready. Nothing special. I'll just enjoy it with the staff."
Victory in Amsterdam would see Chelsea capture the lesser of UEFA's top two club honours a year on from their Champions League glory. Continental success looked unlikely back in October when Benitez replaced Roberto Di Matteo, who had just seen his side humbled at Juventus in the Champions League group stage.
Despite the impressive displays since, former Liverpool boss Benitez was keen not to take the praise.
"Again I would say it's not just about me," he said. "It's about the players, the staff, the fans, the club, everyone. I was helping the team. As a manager you have to do your job. When you play a lot of finals, another one is really good. The main thing is we're in the final and now we have to try and win it."
Basle boss Murat Yakin backed the Blues to secure the Europa League crown and a top-four finish, saying: "They have the team. They're really clever, experienced, they know how to win things. I hope my team have given them really good preparation to go into that final and, hopefully, win it."
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