Benitez rues fixture pile-up after FA Cup scare

LONDON (AFP) - Interim manager Rafael Benitez admits his Chelsea players are beginning to suffer from the demands of a congested fixture list after securing an FA Cup replay at third-tier Brentford.

The Spaniard was relieved his side recovered after twice falling behind to the League One club, eventually clinching a 2-2 draw through Fernando Torres's late equaliser.

Benitez is anxious for Chelsea, the cup holders, to progress as far as possible in the competition as he attempts to make his mark during his seven-month stay at Stamford Bridge.

But he says the last thing his side needs is an extra game in the schedule after a gruelling spell that has included December's trip to Japan for the Club World Cup and the losses of John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses this month to Nigeria's Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

"For us, it's important to do well in every competition," Benitez said.

"The top four is the priority, but we want to progress in the other competitions. The FA Cup is massive. Chelsea won it last season and we will try to do it again." But he added: "It's very difficult; we are playing a game every three days.

How can you train the day before? How can you train the day after? "We have to use the same players all the time, so hopefully the players that are injured will be able to come back, and hopefully the players at the Africa Cup of Nations will be back sooner rather than later." Chelsea's trip to Griffin Park was a testing experience for Benitez and his players, with the Blues out-played for long periods by opponents who took the lead first through Marcello Trotta's opener and then Harry Forrester's penalty.

The half-time introduction of Juan Mata lifted the visitors, who levelled through Oscar and then finally kept themselves in the cup through Torres.

Benitez again found himself the subject of abuse from Chelsea supporters, who turned their anger on the Spaniard after he decided to introduce full-back Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of Demba Ba when his side were trailing.

But Benitez dismissed the reaction and said: "I have said before that I am just concentrating on my job. I try to stay really focused and I can guarantee Juan Mata changed the game when he came on.

"The club said they wanted a manager with experience and I will try to do my job." He added: "The positive was the reaction of the team, but the negative is that we are using some players too often.

"We are a strong team but we have problems because certain players are playing 90 minutes all the time. It's not easy." Chelsea were again without goalkeeper Petr Cech and defender David Luiz, and both players remain doubtful for the mid-week trip to Reading.

Benitez said: "We have to see how Petr Cech and David Luiz are tomorrow (Monday), and see how they progress. Cech has a niggle and David Luiz was doing well, but with the games so close together, we need to be sure on him." Brentford manager Uwe Rosler admitted his side enjoyed a slice of luck when late Chelsea claims for a penalty were turned down after Harlee Dean appeared to handle a Juan Mata cross.

"We deserved that bit of luck," said the former Manchester City striker.

"Harlee Dean did handle, but the hand was at a very close distance. There is some football god up there.

"I'm slightly disappointed we didn't win, but overall my players did fantastic and deserve a lot of praise. They have earned the right to play at Stamford Bridge. Individually and collectively, they were top-drawer."

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