Blues eye sec­ond spot

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

SOUTHAMP­TON — Rafael Ben­itez in­sists Chelsea can still claim sec­ond place in the Pre­mier League ahead of a trip to Southamp­ton to­day that marks the start of a test­ing run of fix­tures for the Blues.

Ben­itez’s third-placed side will at­tempt to in­crease the pres­sure on Manch­ester City, who sit five points ahead in sec­ond spot, with vic­tory over the rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Saints at St Mary’s.

That marks the first of six games in a 16-day pe­riod for Chelsea, with the FA Cup sixth round re­play against Manch­ester United next up just 48 hours later.

The pro­gramme will test Ben­itez’s squad to the limit, but the Spa­niard said: “It is bet­ter to have this prob­lem than be at home watch­ing it on the tele­vi­sion.

“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 co- mpe­ti­tion, you have to win games and then you can win tro­phies. It has to be now, in this pe­riod.”

Chelsea moved one point ahead of Tot­ten­ham in the last round of fix­tures be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break, with Ar­se­nal an­other four points adrift in fifth place.

The bat­tle for a Cham­pi­ons League place is set to in­ten­sify in the coming weeks, but while Ben­itez recog­nises the threat of the two north Lon­don clubs, he main­tains his fo­cus is fixed on City.

“I would like to see if we can re­duce the gap or think like this, but I’m sure they will be con­cerned like we are con­cerned about Tot­ten­ham, Ar­se­nal and Ever­ton,” Ben­itez said.

“In re­cent weeks we have been train­ing very well and we were com­pet­ing really well and the team was play­ing very good foot­ball.”

— Sapa-AFP. FIX­TURES To­day: Sun­der­land v Man Utd. West Ham v West Brom. Ar­se­nal v Read­ing. Man City v New­cas­tle. Swansea v Tot­ten­ham. Southamp­ton v Chelsea. Wi­gan v Nor­wich. Ever­ton v Stoke To­mor­row: As­ton Villa v Liver­pool

PHOTO: GETTY

Chelsea boss Rafael Ben­itez has urged his play­ers to chal­lenge for sec­ond place in the Pre­mier League.

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