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Football | Europa League

Mikel struggling for Europa motivation



Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi says he finds it hard to motivate himself for his side's Europa League matches and is desperate to return to the Champions League next season.

The west London club take a 3-1 lead to Russian club Rubin Kazan in the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal on Thursday, having seen their Champions League title defence ended in the group phase.

The Blues are also on track to successfully defend the FA Cup title they won last season, with a semifinal tie against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium awaiting on Sunday.

Mikel, however, says his primary objective is for Chelsea to secure the top-four finish in the Premier League that would enable them to regain their place among the European elite.

"Champions League football is what this club has always been involved in and that is what we as players want to achieve," said Mikel, whose side climbed to third in the league table by beating Sunderland on Sunday.

"We want to be in the top four, top three, whatever. We want to be in the Champions League next season.

"No disrespect to the Europa League, but when you saw that game (against Rubin Kazan) on Thursday... But when you get that buzz, and you hear the Champions League song, it's different.

"And we have been used to it, to those nights, those special nights, and we want to get them back. We want to be involved again in the Champions League next season.

"I don't even know the Europa League song. I have been here seven years and I have never played football on Thursday nights.

Fans of English clubs competing in the Champions League have been known to taunt their rivals in the Europa League with a song that references both the inconvenient scheduling of the matches and the fact the games are shown in Britain on Channel 5 television, which does not usually broadcast major sporting events.

"It has been kind of frustrating to watch (Champions League matches) -and we have to then play on Thursday night," Mikel admitted.

"What do they say? 'Thursday nights, Channel 5?' Hopefully next season we are not going to be in it – we are going to be prime time."

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