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Rafa: Fixture pile-up a positive

Chelsea's congested fixture list, now that they have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Europa League, will not derail their bid to defend the FA Cup and finish in the Premier League's top four, according to interim manager Rafa Benitez.

The European champions survived a scare against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday to progress to the last eight of the continent's second-tier competition, again showing their fighting spirit after Sunday's FA Cup comeback against Manchester United.

Chelsea play West Ham in the Premier League tomorrow – with Demba Ba tipped to return up front in place of Fernando Torres – and Benitez is confident his team can continue their decent run of form.

"Since I came here we have been playing around nine games each month and we knew that could be difficult and we know that can still be difficult," Benitez said.

"I prefer to have this problem because it means we are carrying on competing. A top side always wants to be in all the competitions until the end."

Midfielder Ramires says the Chelsea players are fully behind Benitez despite the discontent of the supporters, a section of whom have routinely jeered the former Liverpool manager.

"There isn't anyone better than him to tell us what is best," said the Brazilian. "The players try not to get involved in this issue.

"As long as he's here the players will seek to support him because he's our manager and we want to win."


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