Benitez confident Blues can beat City
Updated: Monday, 25 Feb 2013 07:07
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez believes today's meeting with reigning Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City can be a guide to his side's targets for the season.
The Blues currently sit third in the table but know that a win at the Etihad Stadium could take them to within a point of City in second place.
Only leaders Manchester United have won at the home of the champions so far this season, but Benitez is confident his players have enough to claim all three points and set their sights on finishing in the top two.
"We have a lot of respect because City is a great team," Benitez said.
"But we have to go there with confidence and if we are close I think that we can fight for being in the top two, and if not we have to fight for being in the top four.
"The priority is to win; if we win this game we will be closer but if we cannot we have to keep fighting.
"What I can see now is a team with confidence, we are confident we can beat City or anyone if we do things in the right way.
"We are creating chances in every game so I'm confident we can do it."
"If we win this game we will be closer but if we cannot we have to keep fighting" - Rafael Benitez
With Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham also having designs on qualifying for the Champions League next season, the race for the top four is likely to be a long one and Benitez admits he envisages the battle going right down to the wire.
"The race for the top four will go on until the end of the season," he said.
"Our last game is against Everton so I'm sure that, until the end of the season, we will be winning games or losing games or whatever but it will be very tight, very close.
"I think that one game can make a big difference so until the end it will be difficult for everyone."
Chelsea go into the game on the back of a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday that took them into the last 16 of the competition.
City crashed out of the Champions League in the group stages and have been able to build up to Chelsea's visit since beating Leeds 4-0 in the FA Cup last weekend.
But although Benitez has recognised the fixture congestion for the European Champions, he is happy that his side are fighting on a number of fronts and, by resting the likes of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole against Sparta Prague, his squad remains fresh.
"We have played around nine games a month, so we have played more games than anyone in Europe," he added.
"But we knew that before the game (against Prague) so I rested some players so hopefully the players we use will be fine and we can keep the energy.
"When you play two games a week in two different competitions and you rest a few players and you win they will say 'Fantastic rotation' but if you lose they say 'Why are you resting these players'.
"We will change some of them against City, that is very clear because we have to do it and that is the way if you are a top side, because the club is successful that is part of the price that you have to pay and we are really pleased to be paying this price."
Benitez will have further selection issues as he must decide whether to stick with Fernando Torres in attack or recall Demba Ba, who was cup-tied against Prague.
Torres has scored just once in his last 14 games for Chelsea but Benitez is convinced his compatriot can rediscover his goalscoring touch and also praised his all-round contribution to the team.
He said: "Obviously as a manager you want your players, and especially your strikers, scoring a lot of goals.
"But Fernando is doing a great job for the team. He is training hard and, I will say it again because I'm convinced, he is doing a great job for the team and he will score goals.
"When you analyse players, with strikers it is easy to say 'How many goals' but when you're playing with 11 players they all have to do their jobs and part of the job for Fernando is to create space and to put players in good positions with his movement."