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