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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Benitez calm over top-four chances

Published 08/04/2013 | 16:11

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Rafael Benitez is confident Chelsea can finish in the top four

Rafael Benitez knows Chelsea's Champions League fate could hinge on the Barclays Premier League clash with Tottenham but is relaxed about the twists and turns in the race for the top four.

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A win for Arsenal on Saturday saw last season's Champions League winners Chelsea in fifth ahead of their match with Paolo Di Canio's Sunderland on Sunday. But the Blues returned to third with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge, moving above Tottenham on goal difference after Spurs were held to a draw by sixth-placed Everton.

"We knew that we had to win and especially because they (Tottenham and Arsenal) will continue winning," Benitez told Chelsea TV. "The main thing for me is the big picture, so keep calm. We have a good team, if we perform at our level we can win against anyone."

He added: "You have some bad games and good games but it will be the same for them. We have to carry on. We have one game in hand on Tottenham so if we can do well, especially against them, maybe it's a game that can mean six points."

A date for the Tottenham fixture is still to be determined after Chelsea's progress to Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City forced the game to be rearranged.

Should Chelsea confirm their place in the Europa League semi-finals by completing an aggregate victory over Rubin Kazan on Thursday, the window of opportunity for the Spurs fixture will be small and it will likely take place in the first week of May.

The Sunderland clash was Chelsea's fourth in nine days and third win in three separate competitions at home in seven days, following the FA Cup defeat of Manchester United and the Rubin win.

The Blues players were given a day off on Monday before travelling to Moscow for Thursday's second leg of their Europa League quarter-final with the Russians, with a 3-1 advantage from the first leg.

Benitez is contemplating some changes at Luzhniki Stadium - Rubin's temporary home and scene of Chelsea's 2008 Champions League final penalty shootout loss to Manchester United - in order to protect his squad for the remainder of the campaign.

Benitez said: "We're considering changing system if necessary to put fresh legs on the pitch and be stronger; not be more defensive, to be stronger. The difficult thing in this game is everybody thinks it's done. It's not done. We'll play on a synthetic pitch. It will be minus five and if they score one goal, we will be under pressure. It's important for us to score but the main thing is to approach the game with the right mentality."

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