Benitez slams Chelsea’s “impossible” fixture schedule

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez believes that the club’s league and cup fixtures are proving “impossible”, and feels that rival Sir Alex Ferguson has the advantage ahead of the Blues’ big FA Cup clash with Man United, reports The Guardian.

The Stamford Bridge outfit travel to Southampton on Saturday for a Premier League outing less than two days ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final replay with United in London.

The cup game will be Chelsea’s 55th of the season, and Benitez believes that such a pile-up in fixtures takes its toll, saying: “Physiologically, it’s impossible. The day after a game you feel really tired, but two days afterwards you feel even more tired.

“It’s the reality. This second day will be really tough for everyone.”

The Guardian does point out, however, that United face a trip to Sunderland before having to travel down to the capital for the cup clash, meaning that it is the Reds who have more travelling to do for their two games in the space of 48 hours.

However, they do have the early kick off at the Stadium of Light, with that clash starting at 12.45pm.

With the Red Devils currently comfortably at the top of the Premier League with a 15 point advantage, Chelsea can seldom afford to slip up as they seek to cement their place in next season’s Champions League, and Benitez believes that Ferguson is likely to play two different sides during his side’s games – something not afforded to the Spaniard.

We can’t play two different teams. I try to keep the level. The difference is that they are 15 points ahead, so maybe they can say, ‘OK, we do that and see what happens’. We can’t do that. We have to find a very competitive team for Southampton, with the other game in our head because we can’t forget we have just 48 hours.

“I don’t want to use this as an excuse because some people say, ‘oh, he’s making excuses’. No. The reality is that, because of their position in the table, they have an advantage and they will not have another [European] competition … they are not in the Champions League. For them, it’s clear. The priority will be the FA Cup.”

Benitez would not confirm which of his side’s two games were more important to the club, though Champions League qualification surely remains the top seasonal target. However, a loss to United in the FA Cup will make it even more difficult for Benitez to stamp his time at Stamford Bridge with a trophy,

The former Liverpool incumbent believes that squad depth is likely to prove a factor in the cup quarter final, continuing: “We have to pick a team that can beat Southampton, but if I don’t pick, for example, Ashley Cole – if I say Cole or [Ryan] Bertrand – if we lose, people say, ‘why didn’t you pick Cole?’ If you win, nobody will say anything. But then, if we lose against United, somebody will say, ‘you can do this or that’.

“You have to realise we have a lot of information [on the players] and, also, it’s not easy to make a decision because it’s impossible to be fully fit for the second game.

“For four months, we have been playing one game every three or four days more or less, we know how to handle this, but two days? It’s impossible to have fresh legs if you play the 90 minutes against Southampton.”

Benitez’s days at Stamford Bridge appear numbered, with the interim boss having shown to concrete signs of staying on at the club beyond his current deal, which expires at the end of the season. The Chelsea following have been vocal in their disapproval of his position at the club, and this failure to connect with the fans only strengthens the view that he will make way for a long-term replacement in the summer.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Southampton v Chelsea

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