- Europa League
Mikel slams Europa League
Chelsea midfielder Jon Obi Mikel has launched a stinging attack on the Europa League and admitted he is frustrated to be playing football on Thursday nights.
The reigning Champions League winners were thrown into UEFA's second string competition after their defence of the European title they claimed in dramatic fashion against Bayern Munich came to an unceremonious end last December.
While Blues boss Rafael Benitez has persistently insisted his star names are highly motivated to achieve success in the Europa League, Mikel's comments suggest a slightly different attitude prevails among some Chelsea players ahead of the second leg of their quarter-final tie against Rubin Kazan on Thursday.
"It has been kind of frustrating to watch the Champions League games and then we have to then play on Thursday night," Mikel told reporters.
"Hopefully next season we are not going to be in the competition and we are going to be prime time again.
"No disrespect to the Europa League, but you get that buzz and you hear the Champions League song, it's different. That is what we have been used to and we want to have that back again next season.
"I think for us and the fans, Champions League football is what this club has always been involved in and that is what we as players want to achieve. We want to be in the top four, top three of the Premier League. We want to be in the Champions League next season."
Mikel's comments may not be well received by Benitez, who has been keen to promote the virtues of the Europa League as his side close in on a semi-final spot having established a 3-1 first-leg lead against Russian side Rubin Kazan.
Benitez may also question Mikel's suggestion that he is frustrated by the rotation policy being followed at Stamford Bridge, even though he appreciates it may be necessary to enhance the club's hopes of trophy success.
"If you think you are physically fit and you are in good form and then the next game you don't play, it is hard," Mikel said. "This is the first time it has happened to me in seven years, but it's something that everyone has accepted since the manager came in.
"In the end, the manager is doing it because we have a chance for silverware. We have to keep going the way we are. We are in the FA Cup semi-finals and in the Europa League, we have one more leg to play to reach the semi-finals.
"We just have to keep doing what we are doing and keep playing the way we are playing, and hopefully, if we could get a piece of silverware this season, we will be very pleased. This season is harder even than last year when we won the Champions League, but we still have so much to play for."