English Premiership

Benitez to avoid Euro play-off

2013-05-18 12:24
Rafael Benitez (Gallo Images)

London - Rafael Benitez hopes to bid farewell to Chelsea by securing a victory over Everton on Sunday which would guarantee third spot in the Premier League and automatic qualification for the Champions League.

After returning from Amsterdam this week with the Europa League trophy following a dramatic final win over Benfica, much-maligned interim boss Benitez can give Chelsea one more leaving present with three points at Stamford Bridge.

Should Chelsea lose, however, there is the possibility they could be overhauled by Arsenal who travel to Newcastle while a scoreless draw against Everton -- managed by David Moyes for the last time before his move to Manchester United -- combined with a 2-1 Gunners victory raises the unlikely possibility of a play-off for third place.

"We have to approach the day for us thinking about to win and after see what happens," Benitez said.

"We have to concentrate on what we can do and try to win our game. We have been working so hard in the season that it would be a pity if we could not finish in the top three.

"We will try to win and we won't consider any other option. If we have to do it, these are the rules, but we will try to avoid the situation. I have confidence we will do it."

Benitez's departure will not be mourned by many of those Chelsea supporters who opposed his appointment as Roberto Di Matteo's successor in November and are anxious to see Jose Mourinho return to the club.

But he believes whoever replaces him will inherit a team on the up and he admitted it would be frustrating to walk away from a group of players he has helped develop.

"It's a very good group of players and I think the club will add some new players," Benitez said.

"I am sure they will try to improve and the team will be better because they will have more experience, and new players can come in and push.

"The problem we had this year was too many games. Two games a week for the whole season is difficult to see the real level. If you played less competition, I think you can manage better and with fresh legs win even more games.

"For me it's always sad when you have a group growing, improving and winning, and then you have to go."

For Moyes, this week has also been a time for reflection and the Everton manager admits the club's failure to reach more cup finals under his stewardship is one of the few regrets of his 11 years in charge.

Everton got to the FA Cup final in 2009 where they lost to Chelsea, but that was their only appearance in a major final under Moyes and that still rankles with him.

"There aren't too many regrets," Moyes said. "But maybe that we didn't get to more cup finals. And perhaps that we couldn't get closer more consistently to the teams at the top.

"We have also had some down times and whoever takes over at Everton will have some of them as well.

"It is not plain sailing here because you are having to play at your best continually if you are going to try and keep up with the top teams."

Everton's search for Moyes' successor is ongoing, although the Scot believes the club may consider an internal appointment.

Former players Alan Stubbs, David Weir and Duncan Ferguson are all on the backroom staff at Goodison Park and could come into contention, as could midfielder Phil Neville following his retirement.

"Someone from inside will have a little bit more knowledge than someone else coming from the outside," Moyes said.

"The people here haven't managed yet, but the only way you can find out if they can do it is to give them an opportunity."


Read more on:    chelsea  |  everton  |  rafael benitez  |  soccer

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