Rafael Benitez has warned his players they must be focused before Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Basel on Thursday night.
The manager expressed his confidence that the squad could get the job done and protect our 2-1 lead, but insisted the tie was far from over with the Swiss champions likely to come out looking for goals.
‘As a manager you want to win every trophy if you can,’ Benitez said. ‘We have an opportunity but my concern is that we will be thinking we are in the final. It’s not the case.
‘We play against a very good team that has scored goals away, so everybody has to realise it will be difficult. Hopefully I will be wrong and we can score a lot of goals, but first we have to win and afterwards we can think about the final.
‘I think they will come trying to score. They did it against Tottenham. I am sure they will be offensive and push. We saw that in the second half and I think it will be the same approach. It’s the only way for them to qualify.
‘I am concerned but I am not afraid. We know they are a dangerous team, we know they are strong and score goals away. But we know we have a good team and are so close to the final we have to be focused and not make mistakes. I have a lot of confidence in my players.’
Benitez knows what it is to both lift this trophy, as he did with Valencia in 2004, but also how it feels to fall at this hurdle, having been eliminated by Atletico Madrid with Liverpool in 2010.
‘We have qualified for the semi-final. It’s a fantastic achievement in a busy season and a transition period. We will try to do our best and be in the final.’
Benitez has Ashley Cole suspended, with a further four one booking away from missing the final. They are David Luiz, Ramires, Ryan Bertrand and John Mikel Obi. That threat will not alter team selection, however.
‘The main thing is to win and qualify for the final. We will try to do it with the best team possible for this game,’ Benitez confirmed. ‘It doesn’t matter about the yellow cards.’
Looking further ahead, Benitez was asked if his thinking for this game would be altered by forthcoming fixtures against Manchester United and Tottenham.
‘It has been the same for 35 weeks, that we have a game,’ he said. ‘It means we are playing a lot of competitions and we have to just concentrate on this game but we know that united and Tottenham will be massive games. We have to use the squad.
‘We will try to stay as high as possible in the table and to win a trophy would be fantastic for me, but also fantastic for everyone involved. That is the main thing.’