Bertrand: Europa final is Chelsea's last chance

Chelsea will feel they have underachieved this season if they fail to beat Benfica in Wednesday's Europa League final in Amsterdam, according to defender Ryan Bertrand.

The London club began the campaign with a chance of picking up seven trophies and slowly but surely their dreams were scuppered in the Community Shield, European Super Cup, Champions League, World Club Cup, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup.

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Holders Chelsea's disappointing third-place finish in their Champions League group meant they were forced to compete among the also-rans in the second-tier Europa League and the final represents their last hope of silverware.

"There might be a slight sense of underachievement bearing in mind we started the season looking at the possibility of winning seven trophies," Bertrand told Reuters in an interview.

"The way it has gone, this has probably been the most testing season Chelsea have ever had. The players have had to dig deep, fighting to the last minute in every game to get ourselves in a final and hopefully we can get our hands on some silverware."

England international Bertrand said the squad wanted to give interim manager Rafael Benitez the perfect send-off before he leaves at the end of the season, as media reports suggest Jose Mourinho is returning for a second stint at the helm.

Benitez has had to plot his way through a gruelling schedule of fixtures since taking over in November and has had little support from the Stamford Bridge fans who idolised Champions League-winning predecessor Roberto Di Matteo.

"We definitely want to send Rafa off in style," said the 23-year-old left-back. "It would be fantastic for the players, for Rafa and for the whole club especially after the up and down season we've had."

The Europa League final will be the 68th match of a punishing campaign for Chelsea and Bertrand praised the way Benitez had rotated the squad to maintain the fitness levels of all the players.

"He has made sure to rest players here and there and when you look back at the season, it's been needed," the defender explained.

"It's not always going to work to your advantage when you have to utilise the whole squad but I think Rafa's done a good job."

Chelsea achieved one of their targets on Saturday when a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa guaranteed a top-four finish in the Premier League and probable qualification for next season's Champions League.


"We don't have a massive squad so it's credit to the lads," said Bertrand. "When you look at second-placed Manchester City, they've played about 51 or 52 games - look at us, we're approaching 70.

"It's a big difference and it goes to show how hard we've worked. You've got to consider all the travelling we've done too.

"It's been a tough ask but it's all part and parcel of our jobs and we're not complaining," said Bertrand as he attended an Adidas Champions League function at the Harrods store in Knightsbridge.

"We've just rolled our sleeves up and cracked on, even though a lot of times we've only had one day to recover from the previous game. I think we've done fantastically well to get to the Europa League final."

Bertrand, who has won two international caps, signed professional forms with Chelsea in 2006 and the early part of his career was spent going out on loan at various lower-league clubs.

The outstanding form of England left-back Ashley Cole kept him waiting in the wings until April 2011 when he finally made his debut for the Londoners.

Bertrand mainly serves as Cole's deputy but he has now accumulated 68 appearances for the first team including the undoubted highlight when he was picked to play on the left side of midfield in last year's Champions League win over Bayern Munich.

"Now and again I sit down and try to digest what's gone on in the last couple of years," said the youngster.

"Looking up at that Champions League trophy over there, it brings back great memories. If you go back two-and-a-half years when I came back from one of my loan spells it was a case of now or never for me at Chelsea.

"I had to give it one last bash, I had to have a period in and around the team. It was a big decision for me but thankfully it paid off in the end," said Bertrand.

"The Champions League was the pinnacle for me and it probably still will be in 10 years' time," he laughed. "It's pretty crazy to think like that but although I've won it, the work doesn't stop there.

"This is only the beginning for me and I'll never ever fall into the trap of thinking I've won this or won that.

"This season has been another improvement for me and as long as I'm getting game time and my minutes on the pitch are improving year on year then I can't really complain because Chelsea is a great club to be at."