Bellamy: I blew my City chance

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.”

Future

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.”