Europa league: Rafa Benitez shuns Real talk

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CONTINUED speculation that Jose Mourinho is set to return to Chelsea “where people love me” cut little ice with interim manager Rafa Benitez, who remains focused on guiding the London side to the Europa League final.

Chelsea host FC Basel tonight holding a 2-1 lead from their semi-final first leg and Benitez is two matches away from claiming a European crown for a club he will leave at the end of the season. Even if he does succeed in Amsterdam later this month, the Chelsea fans who so vocally objected to Benitez being hired to replace the Champions League-winning coach Roberto Di Matteo are unlikely to be chanting his name.

Real Madrid’s aggregate defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday increased the likelihood that Mourinho will not be at the Bernabeau next season. Benitez, who has been suggested as a possible replacement for Mourinho at Real, refused to enter the debate in his pre-match news conference. “It’s not my business,” he said. “I have to concentrate on my business, that is to beat Basel.”

Chelsea are favourites to finish the job after victory in Switzerland last week but Benitez, who is juggling his squad in a bid to guarantee a top-four finish in the Premier League, said Basel still pose a significant threat. “We have an opportunity but my concern is that we will be thinking we are in the final. It’s not the case,” said Benitez, who won the Champions League for Liverpool in 2005 and the Uefa Cup with Valencia the year before. “We play against a very good team that has scored goals away, so everybody has to realise it will be difficult.”

In the other semi-final, Fenerbahce striker Moussa Sow believes it will be a huge boost for Turkish football if the club can reach the final. Benfica stand between Fener and a place in the final in Amsterdam, with the Istanbul side going into tonight’s second-leg clash in Lisbon with a 1-0 advantage.

“It’s something massive for the club to be in the Europa League semi-final,” said Sow. “We are achieving something huge. We’re in the semi-finals, it’s something exceptional. We will do everything to reach the final and why not win the trophy?”