Bellamy: I blew my City chance
Sat, 30 Mar 2013 09:10:00
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech concedes that the club's season is likely to be shaped by events over the next nine days.
The Blues have found the going tough at times in 2012/13, with an early exit from the UEFA Champions League and a mid-season change in the dugout doing little for stability and consistency.
Chelsea are, however, still looking to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League, defend their FA Cup crown and land another continental title in the form of the Europa League.
Four games in the space of a hectic week will go a long way to deciding how they fare in each of those competitions, and Cech admits the capital outfit have reached a critical stage of their campaign.
He told The Times: "We need a great week, starting with Southampton (on Saturday).
"If we have a great week, everyone will have a different view of our season, the manager and the current situation.
"We play Southampton away and can move away from the teams who are competing with us for a top-four finish. On Monday we can reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, which would be a great win.
"On Thursday there's the home game against Rubin Kazan, where we can take a huge leap towards the Europa League semi-finals and winning the trophy.
"And next weekend we have an important Premier League game (against Sunderland) and we can make the table much better.
"If we have a great week, everything will look much brighter. Our confidence will be higher and the fans will have more joy."
Meanwhile, Cech has also been speaking about his own future and the emergence of Thibaut Courtois as a serious contender to his number one spot - with the Belgian having shone during a loan spell at Atletico Madrid.
Cech said: "I can play another four or five years if I keep my fitness and level of performance, but if I don't play well I'm not going to get picked.
"I've never had a guarantee that I will play, and Thibaut will never have a guarantee. One day, if we end up in the same team at the same time, the manager will have to pick a number one goalkeeper."
The Royals head into Saturday's game at Arsenal seven points adrift of safety, and facing an uphill battle to preserve their top-flight status over the final eight fixtures.
Adkins, who was on Tuesday appointed as successor to Brian McDermott, gave little away on his likely tactics or indeed team news at his pre-match media conference, refusing to even confirm whether goalkeeper Adam Federici had shrugged off his ankle injury.
However, the former Scunthorpe and Southampton boss believes any advantage his squad can gain could prove crucial as the fight for survival heads to the wire.
"Normally, if someone is injured and it is obvious that they are out, then it is no good turning around and saying they will be fit, but just at this moment in time we need to somehow come up with that element of surprise and that is what I have to utilise," said Adkins.
"I will use an example I had at Scunthorpe. We had (striker) Gary Hooper and we went to a team, who I won't mention, but there was no way Gary would be fit and we didn't let anyone know.
"All week that team had worked on stopping Gary Hooper and doing certain things.
"We then went and played a totally different way with different personnel, and they were absolutely gutted as they had spent all week working on it.
"If they knew Gary wasn't playing, then they might not have been worried about it so much.
"We are going to the Emirates and it will be a great challenge, but for now, I will keep my cards close to my chest and that might just give us something, or it might not."
Adkins suffered a 6-1 thrashing at the Emirates Stadium with Southampton in September.
While his return to tackle the Gunners may have come sooner than expected in the wake of his controversial sacking in January, the 48-year-old intends to make the most of the opportunity.
"It is all about experiences," he said. "The experiences at Bangor, Scunthorpe and Southampton have helped me be the Reading manager.
"You can be placed in a situation once - make new mistakes, do not make the same mistake twice.
"If you are in that situation again, you know how you reacted last time and what the outcome was. "It is going to be a challenge but we won't complain, we just get on with it."
Adkins added: "I am not a gambling man, but if people say 'you have not beaten them for ages', then you are due to beat them at some stage so why can't we beat them next game?
"This season I have had a loss and a draw against Arsenal, so maybe I am due a win."
Benitez said it is "impossible" for players to be at their peak for two matches inside 48 hours and the demands of back-to-back fixtures will colour his selection.
But Chelsea's interim manager admitted he does not have the same luxury as Sir Alex Ferguson, who could name two entirely different sides for Manchester United's fixtures over the Easter weekend.
"We can't do that. The difference between them and us is that they are 15 points ahead (at the top of the Premier League)," Benitez said.
"It is not an excuse. The reality is that their position in the table gives them an advantage and they are out of the Champions League. Their priority will be the FA Cup.
"We have to pick a very competitive team for Southampton. If we can beat Southampton we will be keeping an eye on (trying to catch) Manchester City."
Chelsea are entering what Benitez described as the defining period of their season, with five matches in the next 13 days including quarter-finals in both the FA Cup and Europa League.
John Terry's improving fitness is a boost for Benitez, who also expects to have Gary Cahill and Ramires fit to face United on Monday lunchtime.
The squad will come into training on Sunday, with those who play against Southampton put through a light recovery session while the rest focus on practice and tactics for the United game.
Benitez must be tempted to start with Demba Ba at the St Mary's Stadium because the Senegal striker has scored three times against Southampton this season since his move to Chelsea.
Ba marked his debut with a double in the FA Cup and then scored in the league at Stamford Bridge before Southampton came from 2-0 down to claim a draw.
"It is not easy to make a decision (on selection) because it is impossible to be fully fit for the second game," Benitez said.
"The day after a game you feel tired, two days after you feel even more tired. That is the reality. The second day will be really tough for everyone.
"All of them they can play (two games in 48 hours) but at what level?
"Sometimes you can do it if you are not 100% but it depends on each position and each player."
If Ba plays against Southampton then Benitez may have to turn to Fernando Torres to face United, which would be a bold call given how the Spaniard has struggled for goals this season.
Benitez said: "Strikers want to score goals but for me it is not just that, it is what they can do for their team."
The Welshman was signed for City by compatriot Mark Hughes for a reported ?14million in 2009 but fell out of favour after Roberto Mancini's arrival and left in 2011 after 51 appearances for the club.
"I don't understand why he managed me the way he did," Bellamy said of Mancini in an interview with the Daily Mail.
"I worked with people like Bobby Robson at Newcastle who taught me how to be a footballer and a man. He did that even though I was a selfish kid back then, a kid who let a great man down with some things I did.
"He wanted us to come in and cherish what we were doing.
"Mancini was different but there was stuff I could have done differently, too.
"I could have been more open but when Sparky (Hughes) went, I shut down. I just wanted stuff to stay the same for me but I got a change of manager and routine.
"I just clammed up, didn't want to know. Typical.
"Mancini didn't have to persevere with me because he could just go and get someone else and that's what happened.
"But I regret that. I could have made that work. That's one I messed up."