Friday 03 May 2013
After seeing off FC Basel with a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge that secured a 5-2 aggregate victory, Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez said he was "pleased" to have guided his side to the UEFA Europa League final, but insisted celebrations are to be kept on hold for the time being.
"The players deserve to be there. I'm really pleased for the players and everybody here. It's an opportunity for the club"
Benitez's charges suffered a scare on the stroke of half-time when Mohamed Salah levelled the tie on aggregate. The Swiss Super-League side needed one more goal to progress at Chelsea’s expense, but early second-half goals by Fernando Torres, Victor Moses and a spectacular curling effort by David Luiz sealed their fate.
The champagne is to be kept on ice for now, though, with Benitez concerning himself with negotiating a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League by finishing in the top four in the Barclays Premier League. That quest begins with two testing matches against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and Wednesday respectively.
"When you play two games a week, it's not as if you can have the team and train with them," said the Spaniard. "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."
The encounter against Benfica in Amsterdam on 15 May will be Chelsea's second major European final in as many years as the Blues look to add to the UEFA Champions League trophy they claimed in Munich last year.
"I am really pleased to be there [in the final]," he added. "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.
"The main thing is we're in the final and now we have to try and win it"
"Again I would say it's not just about me. 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."
After taking the lead early on through Nicolas Gaitan to level the tie on aggregate at home against Turkish Super Lig side Fenerbahce, Benfica conceded a penalty scored by former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt, which required the Portuguese giants to produce another two goals to reach the final. This they did thanks to goals in either half by Oscar Cardozo.
"It'll be tough because Benfica are a very, very dangerous team and hard to play against, but at least we are there," added Benitez. "With the commitment and the quality, we'll have a chance for sure."
Benfica 3-1 Fenerbahce (Benfica win 3-2 on agg.)
Chelsea 3-1 Basel (Chelsea win 5-2 on agg.)
The final between Benfica and Chelsea takes place on 15 May at the Amsterdam Arena.