Europa League next up for Chelsea following FA Cup victory over Manchester United
Rubin Kazan are the Blues' opponents on Thursday
Tuesday 02 April 2013
Rafael Benitez turned his attentions to Thursday's Europa League quarter-final with Rubin Kazan after holders Chelsea advanced to the FA Cup semi-finals at the expense of Manchester United.
Chelsea face Manchester City in the FA Cup last four on April 14 after Demba Ba's spectacular volley earned a 1-0 quarter-final replay win at Stamford Bridge, which means United's wait to lift the trophy is extended to at least 10 years.
For Chelsea, Champions League qualification is imperative but a trophy is also desirable.
And Benitez, an unpopular appointment at Stamford Bridge due to his prior association with Liverpool, believes the Blues are well placed to finish the season on a high.
"My priority is the top four and trying to win the next game, in the Europa League," the Spaniard said.
"The race for the top four will be until the end of the season. We're in the top four with one game in hand so we're in a very good position.
"We're in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, quarter-finals of the Europa League. It's a great season at the moment. It could be even better."
Chelsea's challenge suffered a blow when left-back Ashley Cole suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the defeat of United.
Cole faces "at least two weeks" out, Benitez said, meaning the Wembley semi-final with City could come too soon for the England international.
Cole's injury is the latest defensive blow, with England defender Gary Cahill out for "another 15 days at least", Benitez said.
Chelsea have won three of the last four FA Cups - the only blip when City lifted the trophy in 2011.
Now City stand in the Blues' way of a May 11 Wembley final against Wigan or Millwall.
Benitez said: "It couldn't be more difficult. This year everything is so difficult.
"If you want to win, you have to beat the best teams. United is one of the best, City is another one. It's another challenge."
While Ba's volley was the decisive moment, a Petr Cech save from Javier Hernandez was also crucial.
The Mexican met a Danny Welbeck cross but Cech was somehow able to divert the ball over.
Had Hernandez met the ball with his head, rather than his shoulder, the result might have been different.
Benitez added: "It was a great save, with a great goal."
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