Chelsea look to get past Steaua Bucharest
Fixtures pile up for Chelsea
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
The English Football Association confirmed yesterday that Chelsea’s FA Cup sixth-round replay with Manchester United will be played at 1.30pm on April 1st, Easter Monday, meaning their Premier League game against Southampton scheduled for March 31st will now take place on Saturday the 30th.
Chelsea were concerned that United would have extra preparation time ahead of the replay at Stamford Bridge but their opponents will also play in the league, against Sunderland, on Easter Saturday.
However, if Chelsea can overturn a 1-0 deficit against Steaua then a Europa League quarter-final awaits on Thursday, April 4th. “Maybe somebody else will blame me,” said Benítez with a wry smile. “They will say it’s my fault, because everything is my fault. If something is wrong some people want to blame me, I have to manage this too. I will try to lead by example and concentrate on the next game. My job is to be sure that we compete in every competition.”
Chelsea’s interim manager has endured a fractious relationship with fans since being appointed in November although his side came back from 2-0 down to salvage a replay at Old Trafford last Sunday following an impressive second-half display.
The performance in Romania against Steaua in the first leg was less positive, but Benítez believes the draw with United has given the players a platform on which to build for the remainder of the season.
He said: “It is important for us to have shown against a top side that we can do it. Doing it at Old Trafford shows it and we can hopefully keep the momentum going.”
On making changes to the team ahead of the flurry of fixtures, Benítez added: “It depends on those players that recover quickly and are fit. Others are older and need more time. You have to analyse everything and decide, and still you get criticised. If you lose it’s ‘you pick the wrong player’. It’s quite difficult.”
Boost for squad
The Chelsea right-back César Azpilicueta said the performance at Manchester United has given the squad a boost and the Spain defender does not believe a fixture pile-up will faze the players. Fernando Torres will come into the starting XI against Steaua as Demba Ba is cup-tied, but Chelsea have no new injury concerns.
“We could have won the game [against United] and it showed that when we are at the best level we can beat any team. We hope to have this confidence for the next game and the rest of the season,” Azpilicueta said.
“We have the squad to play in all the competitions and we want to win trophies.”