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Apr 25, 2013

Benitez: Top-four finish a priority

Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has reminded his players of the importance of securing a top-four finish this season on the eve of Thursday night's Europa League semi-final against FC Basel.

• Lythell: Chelsea must learn from Euro trip woes

Benitez suggested that a top-four finish in the Premier League is a priority for the Blues ahead of their bid to secure more European silverware in the final month of the season.

"My message to the players has been simple - we have to be in the Champions League next season," he told reporters at FC Basel's St Jakob-Park stadium. "They have to realise how important that is for themselves.

"For me, everything is a bonus. If we win the Europa League, finish in the top three, it will be fantastic. But the players have to realise it is even more important for them."

Benitez went on to express his belief that he has "done a good job" in what has been a turbulent few months steering the Chelsea ship, even though he has come under fire from sections of the Stamford Bridge faithful throughout his tenure.

"People have been asking me how I think I will be remembered when I leave Chelsea," he added. "I believe it will be as a professional, someone who worked hard, always trying to do my best.

"I'm managing a top side and given the circumstances of everything around I think we are doing a good job. People all around can argue about it but with the circumstances we have had, the number of games, you put everything together, we are there.

"Obviously fatigue when you play so many games and travel around Europe is a key factor to consider. I praise my staff because we try to manage the squad in the best way possible.

"In the end, the team is producing good performances and we have fresh legs in some players. We have to rotate, change and manage players."

Meanwhile, Benitez is expecting a tough clash in Basel, praising his opponents ahead of the clash.

"Basel is in the semi-final and deserve to be there," said Benitez. "They've worked very hard, have played well, and are well organised. They press well and launch good counter-attacks.

"They have good players with pace and ability, so we will have to do really well if we want to win.

"Philipp Degen was my player (at Liverpool) and is a good professional, a worker who enjoys playing football. They have some good young players and others with more experience."

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