Benitez defends Chelsea record, Lampard eyes glory
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Rafa Benitez is convinced if Chelsea win the UEFA Europa League on Wednesday night it will finally be accepted he has done a good job during his short stint at Stamford Bridge. With a top-four place assured barring a mathematical miracle, Benitez will add some silverware to the campaign if Chelsea overcome Benfica in the Amsterdam ArenA.

It would be an adequate return for the Spaniard, who has endured such a miserable time with the Blues support, who have never forgiven him for the negative comments he made about their club when he was at Liverpool. Benitez stopped attempting to win his critics round a long time ago.

But the 53-year-old knows, from the unpromising circumstances he walked into last November, if the Europa League makes this the seventh trophy-winning campaign out of nine for the Stamford Bridge outfit, he will have nothing to reproach himself for.

"You can always make mistakes but it was not an easy situation at the beginning," he said. "We have managed it quite well. Every day, after every training session, I go home and think we are doing our best.

For the last six months we have been playing two games a week at least. Imagine any team in the world doing that and progressing to semi-finals of two competitions and final of one.
Rafa Benitez

"For me it is always important to win trophies. If we win it will be easier and people will realise that to be here, at this stage of the competition, means we have done a lot of things well."

Lampard loving Europa League
Chelsea's task has been made harder by the absence of Eden Hazard, who has failed to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained at Aston Villa on Saturday. Benitez has promised to give skipper John Terry every chance to get over the ankle problem that forced him to be carried off at Villa Park. However, Terry only managed a jog round the pitch before being withdrawn from the main training session this evening.

In any case, it is highly unlikely the 32-year-old would have started as Chelsea look to complete the unique achievement of winning the Europa League in the season after the Champions League. Yet it is only unique because Chelsea became the first Champions League winner to fail in their quest to get out of their group the following season. In that sense, the Blues could be forgiven a tinge of embarrassment at the situation they find themselves in, but Frank Lampard does not feel anything of the sort.

"You are talking about the highest level of club football in the world," he said. "You can't have it your own way every year. We were lucky enough to have had a great run to the Champions League final and win it last year.

At first we were disappointed to end up in the Europa League. But the more we have been involved in it, the more we have learned to love it.
Frank Lampard

"At first we were disappointed to end up in the Europa League. But the more we have been involved in it, the more we have learned to love it. We wanted to progress and the closer we got to the final, the more we wanted to be here."

Benitez outlines match marathon
Chelsea would also become the first English club to win all three European competitions, although only seven now can given the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup no longer exists.

Benitez already has a UEFA Cup on his CV from his time at Valencia in addition to that never-to-be-forgotten Champions League triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul with Liverpool in 2005. Now he is focussed on more European glory, which is remarkable in itself when the physical demands that have been placed on his players are added to the burden of criticism he has had to carry.

"You have to analyse from the beginning," he said. "You have to analyse the age of our players, the new players, the transition period we have had, the short squad at times and all the competitions.

"After tomorrow we will have played 68 games. For the last six months we have been playing two games a week at least. Imagine any team in the world doing that and progressing to semi-finals of two competitions and final of one.

"It doesn't matter what a lot of people say, we feel we have done a good job. Hopefully we can do even better."