BENITEZ: CLOSING THE GAP

Posted on: Sun 14 Apr 2013

Chelsea go head to head with Manchester City this afternoon for a place in the FA Cup final and Rafael Benitez believes the team is developing into one that can consistently challenge the sides above us in the league table.

Roberto Mancini's side has had the better of our meetings so far this season with four points won in the league games and a victory in the Community Shield, but we have been in good form of late, with three straight wins including Manchester United defeated in the previous round of the FA Cup, followed by Thursday's progress into the Europa League last four.

'Now this is a very good Chelsea team but maybe inexperience has cost us some points in some games or lost us some trophies, but you can see players that are growing,' says Benitez.

'I am sure that next year these players will be much better because they will have more experience and some of them will have settled down in England. They are improving and learning and next year if two or three players are signed then they can challenge.

'This team finished sixth last year, 25 points behind two teams. This year it will be behind Man United but maybe closer to Man City and you have new players with talent, and if you bring in two or three players they will be closer.'

Looking at today's immediate challenge at Wembley, Benitez assesses the opposition.

'If you look at the game they played against Man United last week, they were good in every line. The keeper is good, the defenders are good, and the midfielders and the strikers are good.

'They are intelligent and physically they are strong so it is a very good team.

'We will have to see if they have David Silva fit. Without him it will be more difficult for them but if he doesn't play then they can play Edin Dzeko or Sergio Aguero up front, or Carlos Tevez between the lines, so they have a lot of options.

'We have to change some players because you cannot come back from Moscow playing on a synthetic pitch and keep the same fitness and the same levels otherwise.

'But on our day and if we can do what we need to do then we can beat anyone.'

>> Live text coverage of the FA Cup semi-final will be available here.