Rafael Benitez defends Chelsea selection after Southampton defeat

Qualifying for the Champions League next season is surely more important than winning the FA Cup, although Rafael Benitez doesn’t seem so sure.

Rafael Benitez defends Chelsea selection after Southampton defeat

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March 30th, 2013

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The Chelsea manager rested the likes of Ashley Cole, Juan Mata and Demba Ba on Saturday afternoon as the Blues were beaten 2-1 at Southampton, a result which means Arsenal are closing on their London rivals with just a handful of games remaining.

The defeat at St Mary’s was the third away loss in a row, although Benitez defended his team selection after the game and claimed that it was impossible to field his strongest possible line-up for this match and also Monday’s FA Cup replay against Manchester United.

“I have confidence we will finish in the top four and could win one or two trophies,” said the interim first-team manager.

“We’re still there and I have confidence and belief in these players, who have quality. But we had to manage the squad and, with these games coming so close together, less than 48 hours apart, you have to make decisions.

“In the Premier League we have more games to play. The FA Cup is just one game. If we’d had three or four days [in between] we could have managed it in a different way. Two days, it’s not easy, so you have to make decisions in the squad. Southampton are a good team on one level, but United are another team at another level. I had to find a balance and, in the first half, it was not good enough. The second half, much better.”

Benitez has confirmed he will shake the hand of Ferguson on Monday providing that the Scot is open to such a gesture. He said: “The local manager – me in this case – will look for the away manager and try and shake his hand,” said Benitez. “But if you look at the DVD from that first game, you can see a fact: a photographer talking with him. You will see who was right. But I will go anyway and try and shake his hand. This is a massive game against a very good side in a massive competition.”

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