Rafael Benitez challenges Chelsea to keep on winning throughout congested schedule
The Blues beat Sunderland at the weekend
Monday 08 April 2013
Rafael Benitez has challenged his Chelsea stars to keep winning throughout their congested schedule after returning to third place in the Barclays Premier League with a 2-1 defeat of Paolo Di Canio's Sunderland.
Chelsea claimed a third win in a third separate competition in seven days at Stamford Bridge to leapfrog Tottenham and Arsenal in the table. They lead fourth-placed Spurs on goal difference with a game in hand.
On Thursday manager Benitez's men will be in Moscow to play Rubin Kazan, seeking to confirm a place in the Europa League semi-finals, before returning to London for Sunday's FA Cup last-four clash with Manchester City at Wembley.
Key Premier League fixtures with Fulham and Liverpool follow, but, at present, the Blues are on course to achieve their three remaining goals this term, with securing Champions League football next term chief among them.
"You cannot stop," said Benitez, who will continue to rotate his squad due to the congested calendar.
"The main thing is to get results and try to be sure that we have the right mentality every game.
"It's important to keep the team winning, keep the team ready and everybody on their toes. They (the players) have to be ready to give us something."
Chelsea appeared fatigued in their fourth game in eight days and first in the Premier League since the defeat at Southampton and trailed at half-time when Cesar Azpilicueta directed the ball into his own net.
Half-time substitute Fernando Torres inspired the comeback, his surging run leading to Matt Kilgallon's 47th-minute equalising own goal, before Branislav Ivanovic netted what proved to be the winner by diverting David Luiz's shot into the corner.
"The most important thing was to get the result and we did it," Benitez added.
"We try to play well because it's easier playing well, you will win more games. Sometimes you cannot: they were well organised and we didn't start really well.
"The reaction was the most important thing. We showed character, we showed determination in the second half and we scored two goals."
Benitez anticipates the race for a Champions League qualifying spot will continue until May 19, but he hopes last season's European Cup winners will be certain of their place before then.
The London derby with Tottenham - a date for which is still to be confirmed - could effectively be a play-off for Champions League football next term.
"Spurs and Arsenal are still there pushing, Everton as well," Benitez said. "We have to continue to the end.
"Hopefully we can do well in the cup competitions and be ready for Fulham and Liverpool."
Victory may have come at a cost with Demba Ba going off at half-time with an ankle injury following a poor Craig Gardner challenge.
Ba is cup-tied for Moscow, so will benefit from a rest anyway, but Benitez must wait to discover the full extent of his injury.
Benitez said: "The tackle (on Ba) was a heavy tackle, but we don't know now. It's too early."
Latest in Sport
Newcaslte vs Everton: Latest news and score plus the rest of today's Premier League action, including Manchester United and Chelsea reaction
Manchester United injury news: Angel Di Maria unlikely to face Spurs as Marouane Fellaini's 'mystery illness' turns out to be rib injury
Manchester City team news: Manuel Pellegrini hopes to have Vincent Kompany back for Burnley visit but hopes not to risk Stevan Jovetic
Arsenal transfer news: William Carvalho to be subject of £20m bid
Manchester United defender Luke Shaw renting £3.85m home from Cristiano Ronaldo
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 3 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 4 UK weather: 'Coldest night of the year' tonight as freezing temperatures plummet to -10C
- 5 Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk