Rafael Benitez relishing hectic Chelsea schedule and says John Terry fit again after international break

Blues face five games in 13 days

Rafael Benitez would much rather deal with the challenge of five games in a 13-day period that could define Chelsea's season than be at home watching other teams chasing trophies on television.

Chelsea launch a hectic fortnight when they tackle Southampton in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday before hosting Manchester United in an FA Cup quarter-final replay at lunchtime on Monday.

Benitez will then switch his attention to the first leg of Chelsea's Europa League quarter-final against Rubin Kazan, with the second leg to follow in Russia on April 11 after a league clash with Sunderland.

It is a gruelling schedule and Benitez admitted it will be impossible to field a full-strength side in every game because players cannot perform at their peak twice inside 48 hours.

But Chelsea's interim manager insisted it is better to face a packed calendar than already be knocked out of the competitions.

"It is better to have this problem than be at home watching it on the telly," Benitez said.

"It is better to have this schedule because it means you are still competing.

"With a top side, the last month in the season is when you fight for trophies. We are still there and it is a positive.

"At this stage of the competition you have to win and then you can win trophies. It has to be now, in this period."

John Terry was one of only five Chelsea players who trained at the club during the international break, following his retirement from England duty.

Benitez confirmed the break had been beneficial for Terry, breaking the "vicious circle" the Chelsea captain had found himself in after injuring his right knee in February.

Terry has been unable to play consistently for Chelsea but Benitez believes he made a step forward over the last week.

"He was training with us this week and he was doing well. He is training every day and improving his fitness," Benitez said.

"It is just a question of how many games can you play? We will have four games in nine days. It is the same for everyone.

"You can't play all these games and be 100 per cent - not just him, everyone.

"We have to ensure we have a competitive team against Southampton and a competitive team against United. We have to manage the squad carefully.

"The most difficult one will be these two games (coming up) because they are so close."

Benitez is not concerned that his players may consider the FA Cup tie with Manchester United to be the priority.

"They want to finish in the top four and guarantee Champions League football for next season so hopefully that will be the motivation for them," he said.

Benitez has been impressed with Southampton this season, both under Nigel Adkins, whose team secured a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in his final game as manager, and now under Mauricio Pochettino.

"He is doing well. It is not an easy job for a new manager," Benitez said.

"They were doing well with Adkins. I had a very good opinion of them before and I have a good opinion now."

Southampton remain in danger of relegation but Benitez said: "My feeling is they have a good team, they have a good understanding of the game and some good players so they have a chance (of staying up)."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea