Abramovich gives up on cups and orders Benitez to deliver top-four finish
22:28 GMT, 29 January 2013
08:11 GMT, 30 January 2013
Roman Abramovich has written off Chelsea's chances of winning silverware this season and told Rafa Benitez to finish in the top four.
Chelsea's technical director Michael Emenalo met with Benitez at the club's training ground on Tuesday morning and passed on the message from their billionaire benefactor.
It means Chelsea – who started the season with the chance to win seven trophies – must finish strongly in the Barclays Premier League to guarantee Champions League football.
Mind the gap: Rafa Benitez is under instruction from Roman Abramovich to guide Chelsea to a top-four finish
Although Abramovich and various Chelsea executives are furious with the manner of the team's performance in the 2-2 draw at Brentford in the FA Cup, finishing in the top four is all that counts.
Benitez met Emenalo before training on Tuesday for the latest inquest into Chelsea's failing season. The interim Chelsea coach said: 'All I can say is what I know. I have had meetings. We were talking about the situation and it's clear for me the priority is the top four and progressing as much as we can in the other competitions.
'In the last 10 days, we had a fantastic game against Arsenal, not such a good game against Swansea, and 50:50 the other day against Brentford. 'We still have the FA Cup and the Europa League, and we can still finish in the top four.'
All smiles: Demba Ba in training on Tuesday as Fernando Torres (below) bears the brunt of a tough challenge
Chelsea began the campaign with the chance to win seven trophies, but the only competitions they can win now are the Europa League and to defend the FA Cup.
Although Benitez insists he still wants to win the Cups, he has been in left in no uncertain terms about the priority of the owner.
Chelsea finished sixth in the Barclays Premier League last season and only qualified for the Champions League as winners.
Despite increasing pressure from Abramovich over the club's results in recent weeks, Benitez is working with a squad restricted by injury, fatigue and the Africa Cup of Nations.
Benitez, who has the support of the majority of Chelsea players under difficult circumstances, takes the team to Reading this evening in the Premier League.
They will be without keeper Petr Cech again, who is out with a calf injury, and they will have to rely on error prone Ross Turnbull at the Madejski Stadium.
Benitez is short of attacking options and Chelsea confirmed that they had offered Didier Drogba the chance of an emotional return to the club.
Drogba began training at Cobham to keep fit after the end of the Chinese football season and he was offered a six month deal with the option of another year. Despite the temptation to relive the glory years, Drogba has opted to join Turkish club Galatasaray on an 18 month deal.
Benitez will rotate Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, who cannot play three games a week because of a chronic knee condition, to get them across the finishing line this season.
The Chelsea chief came under severe criticism from supporters on Sunday when he replaced Branislav Ivanovic with Cesar Azpilicueta when the team were losing at Griffin Park.
They forced a replay when Torres scored the equaliser, but it's clear that the players are being affected by the mood around the club.
The Chelsea chief added: 'I talk to the players, that's my way. Some managers like to put their arms around their shoulders.
'I talk to the players every day. I talk with the injured players in the physio room. 'With the players in training. Or with senior players, why this, why that, and what we need to improve and what the game-plan will be.'