Benitez: Europa League will not affect Chelsea's domestic form

The Blues, who dropped into Europe's second-tier competition after an unsuccessful defence of their Champions League title, face Sparta Prague on Thursday evening
Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez insists that his side's Europa League campaign will not impact negatively on their domestic form.

The Blues take on Sparta Prague on Thursday evening in the last 32 of Europe's second-tier competition, having dropped into the tournament as a result of an unsuccessful defence of their Champions League title.

But, despite the west London club's recent poor league form meaning their place in the top four is far from assured, Benitez says that he will take the competition seriously.

He told ESPN: "In terms of flights and games it's like the Champions League. In terms of mentality the first thought is, 'hmm, it's different.'

"But if you look at the teams in the Europa League you will see that it could be quite difficult. We have to start thinking about it as a great competition with good teams and that we want to do our best.

"Thursday-Sunday is fine, because in the Champions League it was sometimes Wednesday-Saturday. The most important thing is in the players' heads.

"In England there is a tradition of playing on Saturday. But in Spain I won the Uefa Cup with Valencia playing on Thursday and Sunday, which was just the same. We can manage if we have enough bodies.

"I expect them to be focused and to concentrate, they will realise that it's Europe and they must give 100 per cent."