Chelsea need Europa League triumph to show progress, says Ruud Gullit

Former Chelsea star Ruud Gullit says the Blues must win the Europa League to help tee them up for a successful 2013-14 campaign

Harry Kemble
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rafael benitez
Rafael Benítez is the 10th Chelsea manager of the Roman Abramovich era Photo: The Sport Review

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Ruud Gullit insists that Chelsea need to perform in this season’s Europa League if they want to make progress next term.

Chelsea have endured a season to forget after being dumped out of the Champions League at the group stage, while their form in the English top flight has been inconsistent at best.

But the Dutchman, who was a player-manager at Stamford Bridge in the mid 1990s, believes that lifting the trophy in Amsterdam in May would put Chelsea in good stead for next season.

“Chelsea have to do well. The Europa League is a stepping stone for teams to do well later on in the Champions League,” Gullit is quoted as saying by the Sun.

“The Champions League is obviously a higher level but it is important for any team to have other experiences in Europe as well.

Steaua Bucharest will host Chelsea on Thursday in the last-16 of Europe’s second tier competition.

Interim manager Rafael Benítez, who is enjoying time out of the media spotlight after last week’s public outburst at the Riverside, is expected to play a weakened side despite Gullit’s words.

Victor Moses and Ramires have both been rested for the tie and with Demba Ba cup-tied, Fernando Torres is likely to start up front.

If, as expected, Benítez does leave at the end of the season, Gullit, 50, has an inkling that José Mourinho will return to his former club – even if Chelsea win the Europa League.

“My feeling says that Mourinho is coming back, that is my gut instinct.” said Gullit, speaking to The Sun on Wednesday.

“I don’t know if that is true but it is my feeling.”

Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea: Pre-match facts

• Chelsea’s only previous encounters with Romanian opposition came in the 2008-09 Champions League group stage, where they drew 0-0 away then won 2-1 at home against Cluj.

• Chelsea’s Juan Mata could make his 50th Uefa club competition appearance – he has scored 12 goals in his previous 49.

• Chelsea’s next goal will be their 300th in Uefa competition.

• Rafael Benítez has been in charge of 132 Uefa club competition games – more than any other coach in this season’s round of 16.

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