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Apr 16, 2013

Benitez confident of strong finish

Rafa Benitez believes Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final performance against Manchester City illustrates his team have "the legs" to win the Europa League and finish in the top four of the Premier League.

• Blog: Too little too late

In what was initially a stuttering performance on Sunday, the Blues fell two goals behind but rallied late on and came close to a stirring comeback, only to suffer a 2-1 defeat.

Despite the loss, Benitez feels elimination from the competition could be a "positive" as it eases the club's hectic fixture congestion for the rest of the season.

"We wanted to go to the final, like in the Europa League, but we have to keep an eye on the Premier League as well," he said. "Now we have one less competition. We lost against a good team, did well, and deserved another goal in the second half. We take the positives. Next is Fulham and that's the priority now: the Premier League.

"Obviously, after the [City] game and the day after, we were really disappointed and a bit sad because we were very close. The day before the game against Fulham today, we're ready, focused, concentrating and just thinking about this game."

Benitez admitted his side's slow start was a "surprise", but says they must learn from the defeat if they want to be successful this season.

"I thought we were ready, physically and mentally, against City and had to adapt at half-time," he said. "But you could see the reaction of the team. We have to start from the beginning, not just in the second half.

"If you analyse our reaction in the second half, we saw quality, character and energy. Managing the squad is part of our job and you can see we still have the legs and some determination to win games.

"I think we have good ideas in terms of what we want to do. We know our players much better and what we can expect from them. Hopefully it will be enough. We have quality and you saw the other day we played at our level. We can put any team under pressure."

Benitez, however, declined to comment on Sergio Aguero's escape from punishment, following his lunge on David Luiz.

"I said after the game it's the FA who have to decide. We cannot have any influence, so we have to move on, move forward and think about our games," he said.

"Someone told me [Aguero can play against Tottenham], but I didn't know. I didn't want to be involved, and I didn't know."

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