The first of four games in eight days ended in disappointment on the south coast as the Blues were beaten 2-1 by Southampton at St Mary’s.

After falling behind to Jay Rodriguez’s opener midway through the first half, we were back on level terms shortly after when John Terry headed home from a Marko Marin corner.

Almost instantly, however, the home side restored their advantage when Rickie Lambert curled a free-kick over the Chelsea wall and beyond Petr Cech.

The second half yielded little more in the way of clear-cut chances, although Saints’ goalkeeper Kelvin Davies did well to turn a deflected Victor Moses strike over the bar, but in truth we could have no complaints at the final whistle.

Perhaps with one eye on Monday’s FA Cup sixth round replay against Manchester United, Rafael Benitez opted to leave the likes of Eden Hazard, Ashley Cole and David Luiz on the bench, but the Spaniard defended his decision…

On team selection
‘We had to manage the squad, we don’t have too many options in some positions so we had to use the players we had,’ explained Benitez. ‘It would have been different if we’d done better in the first half because in the second we had the chances to win.

‘You have to approach every game like it’s the most important. We thought with these players it would be fine. It was much better in the second half but not enough to win the game.

‘Gary Cahill and Juan Mata couldn’t play, it’s not a question of me resting them. When you don’t have one or two players you have to manage the squad. There was an international break, some players were away and others were training, you saw them and I think they were ready in the second half, but not in the first half.’

On the performance
‘In the first half we didn’t have the intensity we were expecting, we improved a lot in the second half and created some chances but we didn’t make the right decisions in the final third.’

On finishing in the top four
‘It’s the same situation, it would be easier with three points, but we still have one game in hand. We have to carry on, concentrate on Monday and then start thinking about Thursday and then Sunderland at home. We can’t waste too much time thinking, we have to be ready for the next challenge.’

On Monday’s game against Manchester United
‘It’s another competition and another challenge. We know if we win we’ll be in the semi-finals. In the league there are a lot of games, I said one month ago it will go until the end of the season and I still think the same.’

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