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Benitez targeting job at 'top English team'

Rafael Benitez went on the attack over his management of Chelsea as he targeted a summer move to a "top team" and refused to rule out his next job being in England.

Benitez admitted he would be interested in joining another Premier League club when his spell as Chelsea's interim manager comes to an end in less than two months.

The Spaniard has long been linked with a job swap with Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho, but the former Liverpool manager, whose family still live on Merseyside, revealed yesterday that he would be tempted by an offer to stay in English football. "I like to win, to challenge for trophies. I have a top side and I would like to stay in a top side. A top side, why not in England?"

Benitez's ever-fluctuating stock rose again following Monday's impressive FA Cup quarter-final replay victory over Manchester United. But the spectre of Mourinho's return was raised again barely 24 hours later when former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba backed his old manager to replace Benitez.

Asked if he felt he had not been given the credit he deserved for Monday's win, Benitez said ahead of tonight's Europa League quarter-final first leg against Rubin Kazan: "I don't need credit. The players and staff were happy and the fans were pleased."

One exception was former Chelsea captain and assistant manager Ray Wilkins, who took to the airwaves on Tuesday to blame Benitez for the injury suffered by Ashley Cole early in the United victory.

Wilkins accused Benitez's squad-rotation policy of causing Cole's hamstring pull, the Spaniard having rested the left-back for the Premier League defeat at Southampton less than 48 hours earlier.

Benitez, who confirmed yesterday he expected Cole to be out for "around two weeks", could barely believe Wilkins' comments. "I thought it was the first of April," he said.

"You can't take the comments seriously. I have a degree in sports science from Spain, have spoken to many people about injuries. It's the first time I ever heard anything like this."

Benitez also accused a foreign journalist at yesterday's press conference of suggesting he had picked his best team against United but not at Southampton.

Laughing off the insinuation, he said: "He's trying to say the players against Southampton were not the best players? That's what he's saying if 'the best' played on Monday. You are saying Petr Cech, Terry, Ivanovic, Lampard, Torres, Azpilicueta are not good enough, worse than the other players."

More changes are expected tonight and Benitez added: "I will play a good team. When I don't play a player, I am asked about him. In this situation, I decide to play the players I feel have to play."

Victory over the Premier League champions-elect should boost confidence ahead of a tricky Europa League tie against a side who knocked out the holders and Chelsea's Super Cup conquerors, Atletico Madrid.

Benitez said: "I think we proved against a team at the top of the table, the manager with most trophies, we can compete against anyone, if we have time and if we have the players available, if we have no injuries.

"Confidence does grow, because we beat a very good team."

Benitez swatted away suggestions he was at odds with his players about whether Chelsea's main target was finishing in the Premier League top four or winning a trophy, and maintained that his priority was simply "to win every game".

Having publicly declared he would leave Chelsea this summer, winning two cups and qualifying for the Champions League would put Benitez in a strong negotiating position with another club, but staying at Stamford Bridge is not believed to be an option.

The Spaniard, however, confirmed he was ready to remain in charge for the post-season friendly against Manchester City.

As well as Cole, Chelsea will be without the cup-tied Demba Ba tonight, while Gary Cahill is expected to be out for another fortnight with a knee injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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