Rafael Benitez takes a Chelsea side away from home for the first time this weekend, looking for the work put in on the training field to be translated into goals and a win.
There has been a juggling act for the interim manager during his first week at Cobham, with the standard recovery and match preparation mixed in with the adaptation to tactics he wishes to introduce, but he noted progress being made in Wednesday’s home game.
There will be at least one change from the side that began against Fulham with David Luiz serving a one-match ban on Saturday, but rotation possibilities are again limited by three players out through injury.
John Terry, Frank Lampard and Daniel Sturridge will not be available for the Saturday lunchtime game.
All three have been named in the squad that will travel to Japan for the Club World Cup next weekend but speaking today (Friday) about the players, Benitez reported:
‘Lampard was doing part of the training session, the warm-up and nothing else, and Terry and Sturridge are working hard with physios but they need some more time.
‘I was talking to Terry about how he feels and he is fine. He wants to push and be with the players on the pitch but it is too early. It is a knee problem and we have to wait to see the reaction when turns. He needs two or three training sessions with the team and then we will see.’
Benitez anticipates Wednesday’s final Champions League group game will come too early for the captain but he is keen to have experienced players like Terry and Lampard back as soon as possible.
‘Players with this character and leadership can be helpful when things are wrong, they will be important for us; as well as for what they can give us on the pitch, for what they can give to the team as a group.’
The Spaniard has also spoken about his intention to rotate players having left Juan Mata and John Mikel Obi out of the starting 11 on Wednesday.
‘We had too many players playing almost every game – 11 or 12 of them – and the others didn’t have too many minutes. We will try to fix this. You cannot play every game because you lose the pace and the energy. We have quality so we can manage the squad, especially now we have Japan coming and after that Christmas which is a period here that is very important and, and if we do this we will be strong as a team and as a squad.’
On facing West Ham
How Chelsea cope with West Ham’s totemic centre-forward Andy Carroll will be one of the key features of the game at Upton Park, and it is one Benitez discussed in advance of kick-off.
‘Carroll is good in the air but we have some good players in the defence who are also good in the air and it will be quite important the players win the first ball. But we know it is a style of play in England and some other teams have the same idea and we will try to be aware of this.
‘West Ham are doing well, they are comfortable in the middle of the table and it is a tough team to play against.
‘I like to play at home and to win and hopefully next time it will be easier, but now the team has to play away and we have to adapt to a different environment and maybe it can be positive.
‘I don’t like to talk too much about stats but in the Man City game we had less possession and the Fulham game we had more possession in the final third, and especially in the second half we were on top of them all the time. We are slowly improving in the direction we need to go.
‘We always talk about the strikers but the whole team needs to score and win. We are close in what we have to do in terms of attack and if we can score and win, it will be good for the confidence.’