Rafael Benitez challenges Chelsea to keep on winning throughout congested schedule - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Rafael Benitez challenges Chelsea to keep on winning throughout congested schedule

The Blues beat Sunderland at the weekend

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."

PA

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week