With Chelsea safely through the semi-final second leg and into the Europa League final, Rafael Benitez discussed the effort by the squad that secured the showpiece appearance, and the positive effect it could have on the quest for a good end to the Premier League season.
The Blues came through the test of Basel taking a lead on the night at Stamford Bridge to put the Swiss side within one goal of progressing at our expense, but a blistering start to the second half with Fernando Torres and Victor Moses scoring in the space of seven minutes, followed David Luiz’s stunner on the hour, made sure we will be in Amsterdam facing Benfica on 15 May.
‘I was just telling things that we were not doing well and things that we could improve,’ said Benitez after the game when asked what was said at half-time with Chelsea 1-0 down.
‘And the reaction was really good. We have good players with quality and as soon as they put everything there they can make the difference.
‘I am very pleased to be in the final. We have been working so hard this year to be in finals or semi-finals, and now we are in another final the players deserve to be there.
‘I am really pleased for the players and for everyone here. For the club it is an opportunity and it will be tough because Benfica are a very dangerous team, but we are there and with this commitment and quality we will have a chance for sure.
‘It is not just about me,’ he replied when pressed about his satisfaction in making a European final. ‘It is about the players, the fans, the staff, the club – everyone who was helping the team. As a manager you have to do your job and another final is really good, and we’ll try to win.’
On David Luiz, scorer of the brilliant third goal to add to the winner in Switzerland a week earlier…
‘I am really pleased with him because since I came I was talking with him and giving him confidence and he is giving me a lot of things back,’ said Benitez.
‘His goal at Fulham was with the right foot and tonight it was with the left foot. He has a great character and he is a player that is growing, and with the quality that he has he can be even better.’
On Eden Hazard who came off during the second half…
‘I think he is okay. He is not very serious, he was limping a little and it was just a precaution.’
Looking ahead to Premier League matches to be played before the Europa League final…
‘It is important to show this character and to keep winning and keep the momentum. Hopefully we can do it. Man United will be tough, Tottenham will be crucial for us so we know that we have difficult games – but we have confidence and enough quality in the team so helpfully we can do well.’