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Ivanovic calls on Chelsea to book European ticket before they hit Amsterdam

Branislav Ivanovic hopes Chelsea's return to the Champions League is secured before the European final in which he hopes to play a full part.

A 5-2 aggregate semi-final defeat of Swiss champions Basle saw last season's Champions League winners progress to the May 15 Europa League final in Amsterdam against Benfica.

Chelsea, who enter this weekend's Premier League fixtures in third place, must first play champions Manchester United tomorrow, top-four rivals Tottenham on Wednesday and relegation-threatened Aston Villa as they bid to confirm their place among Europe's elite.

That would mean Jose Mourinho – if his return as Blues manager is confirmed – would inherit a squad playing in the Champions League and, possibly, the holders of the tournament which shot him to prominence with Porto in 2003. But Ivanovic is focused on the here and now.

"For us, the next two games in the league are deciding games," Ivanovic said. "We have to get points in those games. We have to secure (Champions League football), if it's possible.

"It will be much easier to prepare for the final for us in that case."

Turbulent

The Europa League is Chelsea's eighth and final opportunity of silverware at the end of another turbulent season, with the Blues bidding to become the first team to hold the Europa League and Champions League titles at the same time, albeit for a period of 10 days.

There is no time to think of the final, though, according to Ivanovic.

"All season we have been a little bit under pressure," he said. "We cannot relax even for one game, for even one half. We go to Man United away, which is very difficult. They are champions, they play at home.

"We need points for our aim for Champions League next season and (the final) is after the Tottenham game. We have to be ready."

Reaching the final means Chelsea's season will run to 69 competitive games, so long that Ivanovic considers the schedule to be the equivalent of three seasons and he cannot recall when it started.

The chaotic campaign saw Champions League-winning boss Roberto Di Matteo depart after the Blues became the first holders to exit at the group stage and former Liverpool manager Benitez appointed to an interim role.

The vitriol aimed at Benitez has relented of late, but he could yet end the season, and his spell at Stamford Bridge, having achieved his targets.

Although Chelsea face Everton on the final day of the season, the Blues and Benitez would receive an end-of-season boost by beating Benfica in Holland.

"This season has been a very long, very difficult season for us," Ivanovic said. "To have the opportunity to finish the season with a trophy is great.

"It's a great opportunity for the manager to win a trophy with us, for us and especially for our fans."

Lessons

Silverware has repeatedly slipped through Chelsea's grasp this term, with defeats in the Club World Cup final and the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions. Ivanovic believes the current squad is ready to take lessons learned from the defeats into the Amsterdam ArenA clash.

"We missed a lot of opportunities," Ivanovic said. "I hope all these things will help us for the final."

The Amsterdam final is an opportunity for Ivanovic, too.

Everybody remembers captain John Terry missing the Munich Champions League triumph through suspension, but the Serbia defender was also banned. "This is probably my final," Ivanovic said. "I hope I will have the chance to play in the final."


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