Benitez: We deserve third place
© AFP

Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea deserve to finish third in the Barclays Premier League this season and hopes to avoid the prospect of a play-off with Arsenal to decide automatic qualification for the UEFA Champions League. 

Their match with Everton will determine whether UEFA Europa League winners Chelsea finish third or fourth in the Premier League, with Arsenal and Tottenham also vying for Champions League football next term.

"It's always important to finish well," Benitez said. "We have been working so hard during the season that it would be a pity if we cannot guarantee top three."

It will be Chelsea's 69th game of a gruelling and tumultuous campaign, but there is a chance of one more. If Chelsea and Arsenal finish the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored, a play-off will be necessary to decide third place and the automatic Champions League qualification spot, even though the Blues beat the Gunners twice this term.

For the match to be necessary, Chelsea must draw and Arsenal beat Newcastle by a single goal in a match where both teams score. The Premier League has confirmed the match would take place on May 26 at Villa Park, meaning Chelsea would likely have to shelve plans for a post-season tour to the United States.

It doesn't matter what some people will say. I think the job is done
Rafael Benitez, Chelsea interim manager

"We consider that we will not go to the play-off, so we prefer not to discuss that," Benitez said. "If we have to do it, the rules are the rules. I don't think it's ideal, but in trying to avoid this situation, we will score goals and we will try to win."

Asked about the prospect of his work at Stamford Bridge being criticised, Benitez was defiant.

"It doesn't matter what some people will say. I think the job is done," he said. 

Benitez does not believe his successor - the tenth permanent boss in ten years of Roman Abramovich's ownership - will need a handover meeting, but the Spaniard maintains the new boss will inherit a vastly-improved team.

"I think maybe the next manager will have some experience here, too, so I don't need to give him any advice," said Benitez. "The team will be much better and the new manager, I think, will have an easier task because he will have more quality, more experience and he will start in pre-season."