- FA Cup
Benitez: Chelsea 'two or three players' from the title
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has lauded the improvements made by his squad since his arrival at Stamford Bridge.
The Spaniard is confident that the club, with a successful spell in the next transfer window, will again be pressing for honours in the Premier League next season.
Benitez, who will step away from the Chelsea hot-seat at the end of the season, takes his charges on Sunday to Wembley to face Manchester City in the second semi-final of the FA Cup. The Blues will then face Basel in the Europa League semi-finals later this month.
He believes those campaigns will benefit the players, the club and the coach set to replace him for next season.
"I'm sure I will leave some good players with more experience, " he said. "I cannot take credit for signing these players because they were already here, some of them very good players, but some of them are young and they'll be much better at the end of the season.
"The balance of the team is better now. The players are quite happy, quite pleased with the way we train and the things we do and they are learning every day.
"I'm sure next year these players will be much better. They'll have more experience, will have settled down in England. They've been growing, improving and learning. Next year, add two or three players, the team will be better.
"It's a very good team but experience has cost us points in some games and maybe some trophies. If you sign two or three, they can challenge.
"This team finished sixth last year, 20 points or whatever behind two teams. This year they will finish behind [Manchester] United, maybe far away, but closer to City. Next year, bring some new players in, they'll be closer."
The 52-year-old is not blowing his own horn about his ability to have such a quick impact on the players, believing the time of managers staying at one club, such as United's Sir Alex Ferguson, for long periods of time is coming to an end.
"Football has changed. In other countries, maybe it's more normal to have managers for a short time, " Benitez said. "In England people talk about doing your job for three years and a work in progress. But it's not the case now. Look at the number of managers fired in England'
"[Ferguson's reign is] something we won't see any more, especially in England. I don't think you'll see that again. Everything is going faster in life. If I say something now, someone will tweet it and it'll be already out. We don't try to analyse the big picture.
"We went to Moscow, came back at 3.30am, gave a press conference. Before you had rest. There's more pressure now, more anxiety, it's more demanding."
Benitez's arrival was an unpopular addition to the club for many of the Stamford Bridge faithful, continually letting him know he was neither needed nor wanted. But he has refused to let the constant criticism from the stands derail him from his objectives, preferring to focus on Chelsea before heading home to family life at the end of the day.
"The way I cope with the pressure is trying to focus on the next challenge," he said. "I enjoy trying to do my best every time. You can win a game 5-0 but you're still not happy because you want something more. That's my nature.
"At the Real Madrid academy, finishing second was a disaster. If you have too much pressure, you go with your friends and family and relax a bit."