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May 9, 2013

Benitez seeks edge over Benfica

Rafa Benitez does not feel that Chelsea are favourites for the Europa League final, but claimed former Benfica players Ramires and David Luiz could help his side tip the balance.

• Rafa backs Lampard for record

The Blues play the Portuguese team in Wednesday's final in Amsterdam, and could become the first team to win the Champions League and then immediately follow it with the Europa League.

"Always when you go to a final, everything can happen," Benitez said. "We know really well Benfica. They have a good manager and good players, and experience in Europe. I don't see any team as favourites. Both are quite good teams, and we will see what happens in the final.

"[The Europa League has] been important for us because we could keep everyone on their toes, ready to play, and I think it's been positive in the end."

He believes Brazilian duo Ramires and Luiz, who joined from Benfica during the 2010-11 season, could play a significant part.

"Ramires and David Luiz have experience in Portuguese football so that will be helpful for me and us to know a bit more about their team," he said. "They know the manager [Jorge Jesus], the style, the ideas. To be fair, I was talking to some of them before and, more or less, we have an idea. But they will give me more of a clue."

Chelsea eliminated Benfica en route to their Champions League triumph last season, while Benitez was in charge of Liverpool when they defeated the Portuguese giants in the Europa League quarter-finals in 2010.

"We know Benfica really well. I knew them from Liverpool, and Chelsea have played them too. They have a good manager who's been there for years, works hard and is tactically good. Very competitive. They have players like Aimar, who was my player in Valencia. But I will talk to David Luiz and Ramires and they will give me more reports and information, for sure."

Benitez, meanwhile, feels that a semi-final can often be more difficult than the showpiece occasion.

"It's more important to be there. All you can do is prepare the team to be in a final. A semi-final is not easy, but in a final you try to prepare everything to deal with everything, but something can happen and you have to change your game-plan. You have to have ideas in your head to try and change. You are there. You have to have confidence in your team, believe they can win, and afterwards see what happens."

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