Looking up … Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea can overtake second-placed Manchester City this season. The teams clash on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images
LONDON: Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has warned Manchester City that his players have set their sights on climbing above the champions in the table.
Benitez's team will move to one point behind second-placed City if they beat Roberto Mancini's men at Eastlands on Sunday and the Spaniard believes that could prove the springboard to a strong finish from the west Londoners.
Neither side goes into this weekend's clash in a positive mood after traumatic seasons but Benitez sees signs Chelsea can take advantage of City's recent stumbles.
Mancini's club has gone three league games without a win, leaving them well behind leaders Manchester United, and Benitez said: ''We have a lot of respect because City is a great team but we have to go there with confidence.
''If we are close, I think that we can fight for being in the top two. The priority is to win: if we win this game we will be closer but if we cannot we have to keep fighting.
''What I can see now is a team with confidence, we are confident we can beat City or anyone if we do things in the right way. We are creating chances in every game so I'm confident we can do it.''
With Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham also aiming for the Champions League next season, the race for the top four is likely to be a long one. Benitez believes the battle will go to the wire. ''Our last game is against Everton so I'm sure that, until the end of the season, we will be winning games or losing games or whatever but it will be very tight, very close.''
Chelsea travel to City on the back of a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday that took them into the last 16 of the competition.
With City eliminated from the Champions League, they have had more time to rest this week than their opponents. But Benitez refuses to dwell on the potential boost that gives City and said by leaving out Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole against Prague, his squad was fresh.
Meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand will be handed the opportunity to earn up to £2 million ($2.9 million) from a testimonial at Manchester United this year, even if he leaves at the end of his contract this summer.
The 34-year-old has yet to resolve his United future, despite reclaiming his position as Sir Alex Ferguson's first-choice centre-half this season.
Ferguson said the former England captain was capable of playing at the highest level for at least two more years, but Ferdinand is in no rush to make a decision on his future, with contract talks yet to reach an advanced stage.