• Europa League

Benitez pleased with Basel draw

ESPN staff
April 12, 2013
Rafael Benitez has praised his players for how they have dealt with the congested schedule © PA Photos

Rafael Benitez says he is pleased to draw Basel in the Europa League due to ease of travel, and praised his Chelsea team for how they have coped with the extreme demands of this season.

Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City will be the club's 59th game of the campaign, with far-flung trips to Moscow complicating a chaotic schedule. As such, Benitez feels it is beneficial to only have to travel as far as Switzerland for the semi-finals of the Europa League.

"In terms of the features that we have, the games we have, Basel is not too far away," he said. "Maybe it was a good option but just because of that, not because of the [quality of the] team. The team is a good team. They did well against Tottenham.

"You can see it's an offensive team. They can play with intensity. They will be dangerous for sure. We know there is a great atmosphere to the stadium. I think it will be interesting."

Despite the packed nature of Chelsea's schedule, Benitez praised his squad for coping. After a 5-4 aggregate victory over Rubin Kazan following Thursday's second leg, they are in the last-four of both the FA Cup and Europa League and on course for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

"I think they are doing really well," he said. "Yesterday and today, I was appraising them because they are working really hard. You could see [Paolo] Ferreira had to play as a left-back [against Rubin], he was not playing for a while. But all the players that were playing, they were working very hard, then you can change players and give a good level so really pleased for them and for us.

"I'm really pleased because the team is doing well, the squad. Young and new players have been coming into the Premier League, still we need some experience but it's getting better because you play more games, you have more experience so I am really pleased with the way things are going. It's still too early, we will see what will happen at the end of the season. Top-three, two semi-finals, so not bad at the end."

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