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Jan 20, 2013

Benitez raises Premier League white flag

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez has conceded his side's Premier League ambitions are out of reach, insisting the Blues are now focused on winning trophies in the Champions League and domestic cups.

• Preview: Chelsea v Arsenal
• Benitez could gamble on Terry

The European champions sit 13 points behind league leaders Manchester United ahead of Sunday's clash with Arsenal at Stamford Bridge and Benitez has finally admitted the gap is too much to recover.

"In terms of the league I don't think we can do it," he said. "But the Capital Cup is there, the FA Cup is still open and the Europa League is still open.

"I just have to give the team the confidence that we can win against anyone. If you have that belief it becomes easier. The team is very close. We have (John) Terry and (Frank) Lampard back from injury. Now we have to be more consistent."

Chelsea have scored 27 goals in their last ten games, but Wednesday's draw with Southampton - which saw the Saints recover a two goal deficit - has given Benitez concerns about his defence, meaning Terry could earn his first start since November.

"The team are scoring a lot of goals, as we expect them to, but we have to manage this advantage in a better way," Benitez said. "We have to be more clinical. We have to defend as a unit, as a team, be more compact, and not give them any hope they can score."

Arsenal sit eight points behind third-placed Chelsea and the Blues will use the midweek disappointment as added motivation to distance themselves from their rivals for an automatic Champions League place.

"It's always important when you have a draw at home to have a big challenge ahead of you," he said. To have Arsenal is a very good thing for me and the players.

"They are a rival who are close to us. We have to use that as a positive. They are close (in the league), and if we win there'll be a big difference."

Meanwhile, Benitez has confirmed he tried to sign Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla while the Spaniard was in charge of Liverpool, but the Reds were unwilling to match Villarreal's high asking price.

"We knew him before and he was always a player you monitor," he said. "He was playing for Villarreal and the chairman didn't want to lose one of his best players before they were in trouble. But now Cazorla is doing well in a good team with a good manager.

"When I came to England I brought (Xabi) Alonso and one or two others and it took them time to settle down, but Spain has a very good level now and it is good for the game here. You can bring the best from them and combine it with the best from England."

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