Rafael Benítez believes he will leave a Chelsea side who have been "growing, improving and learning" under his stewardship when he departs Stamford Bridge in June and the interim manager is still hoping to a trophy or two from a cluttered run-in that could force his team to play four times in six days.
Victory over Manchester City at Wembley , combined with success over two legs against Basel in the semi-final of the Europa League, would potentially see Chelsea confront Manchester United, Tottenham and Aston Villa in the week leading up to the FA Cup final. The Europa League final in Amsterdam, against Fenerbahce or Benfica, would be played the following Wednesday by which time Chelsea's season could be swollen to 70 matches.
That has left Benítez forced to pursue a pragmatic selection process to steer a relatively fragile squad through the clutter as he seeks to ensure his seven-month spell at the club yields at least one trophy and Champions League qualification. "We know the fixtures we have, the schedule, and we'll try to put a very good team out in every competition," said the Spaniard. "We also know that finishing in the top four is really important for the club and we will try to do that.
"But no one is going to play a semi-final saying they don't want to win. We just have to find a way of managing the squad, so we are strong against Manchester City but also against Fulham and Liverpool. We have to change players. You cannot come back from Moscow, after a game on a synthetic pitch, and keep the same players in the team. But I also know that, on our day, we can beat anyone."
Benítez is expected to omit John Terry and Frank Lampard from his starting XI at Wembley – the veterans both featured against Rubin Kazan in Moscow on Thursday – but may retain the in-form Fernando Torres up front, utilising Demba Ba against Fulham on Wednesday and the Spaniard at his former club, Liverpool, next Sunday. Ryan Bertrand has recovered from illness and will start at left-back, though the decision not to add further to the playing staff or recall players from loan spells in January has left the manager's options threadbare.
The team's redevelopment, most likely without Lampard and possibly even Terry, will continue in the summer once Benítez has gone but the Spaniard is confident the squad that remain at the club will have benefited from his time in charge and, with further investment, can challenge for the title next term.
"The new manager will have a good team," he said. "He'll be happy. The balance of the side is better, there is a good group of players here. All I ever said was I wanted to do my best until the end of the season – I cannot change the situation – but the new manager will have a good team and will enjoy what is here. We will leave good players with more experience. I cannot take credit for signing these players because they were already here. Some of them are very good players but some of them are young and they'll be much better at the end of the season.
"They are learning every day and, I'm sure, next year these players will be much better. They'll have more experience, will have settled down in England. They've been growing, improving and learning.
"A lack of experience has cost us points in some games this season, and even maybe some trophies, but you can see them growing. If you sign two or three [more], they can challenge. Bring some in and they'll be closer."