Football - Blues are strong now - Benitez

Rafael Benitez is confident he will leave behind a Chelsea team hungry for trophies and capable of delivering them when his interim role as manager ends at the end of the season.

PA Sport
Football - Blues are strong now - Benitez
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Rafael Benitez's Chelsea side are in touching distance of a cup double

The Spaniard sends out his side in the FA Cup semi final against Manchester City at Wembley today knowing they are in touching distance of a cup double which would cement his reputation as one of football's most successful managers.

Benitez said: "I'm sure I will leave some good players with more experience. 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."

Benitez, who took over at Stamford Bridge in November, believes his time in charge has already helped Chelsea close the gap on Manchester United.

Chelsea also take on Swiss champions Basle later this month for a place in the Europa Cup final while currently they also occupy third place in the Barclays Premier League.

He added: "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 United, maybe far away, but closer to City. Next year, bring some new players in, they'll be closer."

Benitez is bound to ring the changes at Wembley from the side who lost 3-2 in Moscow against Rubin Kazan in midweek but went through to the Europa League semi-final 5-4 on aggregate. Striker Demba Ba has recovered from his ankle injury and defender Ryan Bertrand is fit again after illness.

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