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Feb 25, 2013

Benitez to sacrifice cups for top-four

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has hinted he will consider prioritising a top four finish ahead of cup glory in the final few weeks of the season, as a leg-weary Chelsea struggle to juggle their ambitions in three different competitions.

Sunday's Premier League defeat at Manchester City was a blow to Chelsea's hopes of claiming a top four finish, with their FA Cup and Europa League commitments in danger of deflecting the focus away from the battle to return to the Champions League next season.

Tottenham will move ahead of Chelsea into third position if they beat West Ham at Upton Park on Monday night, with Benitez admitting Sunday's defeat at Etihad Stadium has opened the door to his side's rivals in the top four skirmish.

"If we feel we need to prioritise something we will do it," conceded Benitez after seeing his side go down to a 2-0 defeat against the reigning Premier League champions. "We are playing too many games, games each three days. You have to manage your squad.

"We know that we still have to do our job because Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton are close. It will be tough until the end. We have to show our quality in every competition, this is clear.

"The race for the top four will go to the last day of the season. Our last game is against Everton, so I'm sure that it will be very tight, very close to the end."

Meanwhile, Chelsea's interim boss moved to explain his decision to leave skipper John Terry on the bench for the clash with Manchester City, as he insisted squad rotation will be vital in the final few weeks of the campaign.

"We changed players like I did against Sparta Prague (last Thursday)," he added. "Some players have fresh legs and you can play them. We need to keep energy in the side and this is why we made changes and the defeat is disappointing, but we have to keep going.

"This was a chance to get closer to City in second, but now we have to keep fighting for the top four. We knew that by winning we would be even closer but we didn't do it and we didn't play well in the first half."

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