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Friday, 19 April 2013

Chelsea: Can Rafa deliver Europa League and a top four place?

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Chelsea started the season with the possibility of winning the Community Shield, Champions League, Premier League, Carling Cup, FA Cup, the Club World Cup, Super Cup and subsequently the Europa League.

However, after being dumped out of the FA Cup by Man City, their only real hope of success is the Europa League, but can Rafa bring silverware to the Bridge?

That was the question I posed to a number of Squarefootball writers and readers earlier this week, here is what they had to say.

Rafa benitezSquarefootball's Hugh Larkin

"Chelsea are a team in transition. By the end of this season they will no longer be Jose Mourinho's creation. Drogba's long gone, Lampard and Terry are no longer first choices and possibly Cole is feeling the pressure for his place. Only Cech from the team in the FA Cup semi-final represented the Mourinho old guard.

"As long as they finish in the top four it's been an acceptable season. With Ba, Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Luis and Azpilicueta, they have the makings of a vibrant side and no doubt they'll add more in the summer."

Sunderland supporter Tony Ratton

"I think Chelsea are more than capable of winning the Europa League and can easily finish in a Champions League place."

Squarefootball's Aston Villa reporter James Fisher

"I still think they have to be favourites to lift the Europa Cup but a lot will depend on whether Rafa can find a settled team. He seems to be tinkering with the squad a lot at the moment, which I'm not sure is helping."

 Squarefootball writer and Birmingham City fan Steve Coulter

 "I think Chelsea will win the Europa League. They have proved they can win in Europe and should have enough to beat Basel to reach the final. With Demba Ba in your side you have always got a chance of silverware. Rafa will also be determined to go out on a high."

Bolton Wanderers fan Dave Blackburn

"I think Rafa is a good manager, one of the problems regarding the Europa League is playing week in, week out. I'm confidence they will win the Europa League and finish in the top four."

Squarefootball's Liverpool reporter Dave Disciascio

"Chelsea and Rafa are odds on for the Europa League, but they would be wise to learn from their North London counter-parts, and not take Basel for granted. If they advance, a final between Benfica and Chelsea would be vastly entertaining; as Benfica are unbeaten through their last 38 games, domestically and in Europe.

"Although Chelsea have the players and experience to technically remain a European Champion, I do not think they can claim the crown."

West Brom fan Andy Wakeman

"They may well win the Europa League but is that enough given the investment in the team last summer? It amazes me that Chelsea fans are quick to criticise Rafa, Torres in fact anyone but the person who has caused the turmoil Abramovich. I guess they know that if he went they would be back with the also-rans and in massive debt. Given the history appointing Rafa was a big error and he seems to want to meddle in team affairs. I think Pep Guardiola would have been good for Chelsea but it appears he could not work with all the interference from above."

Well that's what our group of merry men think, but what do you think? Can Rafa deliver the Europa League to Stamford Bridge before he is sent packing? Can he also finish in the top four? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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