Wednesday 24 January 2018

Rafa eyes first prize with Swans up next

INTERIM manager Rafa Benitez knows the League Cup will provide a golden opportunity for his first trophy at Chelsea after they were drawn against Swansea in the semi-finals.

Benitez saw his side beaten 1-0 by Corinthians in Sunday's final of the Club World Cup in Japan.

But the Blues showed few signs of jet lag as they came from behind to beat Leeds 5-1 in the League Cup quarter-finals at Elland Road last night and now take on Swansea in the last four.

"When you go to a semi-final any team will be difficult," said Benitez. "Swansea is a good team who try to play football, and because we are so close to the final their motivation will be there.

"The first thing I have to do is beat Swansea, but to win trophies is important for any manager. First we must concentrate on the semi-final and after that we can talk about the final."

Chelsea, managed by Roberto Di Matteo at the time, drew 1-1 with Swansea in their Premier League clash at the Liberty Stadium in November, with Pablo Hernandez grabbing a late equaliser for Michael Laudrup's side.

The other semi-final sees League Two side Bradford, who knocked out Arsenal in the quarter-finals, take on Aston Villa.

Benitez, meanwhile, is confident he will win over Chelsea's doubting fans if his players can maintain the form they showed in lashing Leeds.

"My priority is to win against (Sunday's opponents) Aston Villa now, enjoy this, and it will be a question of time. If we can play at this level and win games it will be easier to have everybody together," said Benitez.

"I'm pleased with the way that we won and pleased because we came back from Japan with jet lag, sleeping too much, players tired and still the performance was fantastic.

"The first half was very good, the second half was amazing. Coming back we needed to see the fitness of the players and we had to decide to change some of them, so to have this reaction, I'm really pleased."

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