• Champions League

Benitez confident Chelsea will avoid Euro humiliation

ESPN staff
December 3, 2012
Rafael Benitez is confident Chelsea can reach the knockout stages of the Champions League © PA Photos

Rafael Benitez is hopeful that Chelsea can still qualify from Champions League Group E and avoid becoming the first holders to exit the competition at the group stage.

Chelsea are relying on results elsewhere to fall in their favour if they are going to prevail. Shakhtar Donetsk, already through, must beat Juventus to give the Blues any chance of progress.

The game takes on added significance for Benitez, who is still waiting for his first win since taking over at Stamford Bridge, but he believes Shakhtar will want to win the group and avoid a potantially tougher draw in the last 16.

"We know that a draw would be bad for us but the positive thing is that Shakhtar have a lot of good players and everybody is talking about them, so they have to show the rest of the world that they are really good players," Benitez said.

"When you know the top sides in Europe or in the world are watching you then you have to perform. Obviously, Juve will go for the win, but Shakhtar will need to show this level that they have.

"Shakhtar might finish second and have to play against one of the top sides in Europe and it will be more difficult, so I think they will try to win."

Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu gave Chelsea encouragement as he insisted his side are targeting a win and qualification from the group through top spot, although he also highlighted Juventus' need to win as a danger.

"Shakhtar are always there to win," Lucescu told Tuttosport. "If the [game on] Wednesday ends in a tie, it will mean that it was fate. The fact that we are playing against Juve should be motivation enough for us. Great players thrive on these comparisons. Speaking of motivation, it is clear that Juve have more."

Lucescu has the option of rotating his squad after a gruelling schedule of fixtures, but he intends to play his strongest side, even if some of his players are already thinking about the winter break.

"It has definitely been a hard time and we are starting to feel it," he added. "All they think about are the holidays - especially Brazilians, who cannot wait to go home, where they will find the summer."

Juventus have named a 21-man squad for the game with Claudio Marchisio missing out through suspension, while Lucio and Nicklas Bendtner are injured. Giorgio Chiellini is included in the squad although it is unclear if the Italy international defender is fit enough to start.

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