After getting his reign in charge of the Blues off to a solid start at the weekend, Rafael Benitez is confident we can revert back to winning ways when we welcome local rivals Fulham to Stamford Bridge tomorrow night.
The Blues go into tomorrow night’s game with three players still unavailable due to injury, but Benitez is hopeful the trio will be back in action sooner rather than later.
‘Still [Daniel] Sturridge, [John]Terry and [Frank] Lampard are not available,’ explained the interim first team manager.
‘They are doing well, training with the physios and improving, but we don’t have a fixed date for any of them. The rest of the players are fine, there are a few knocks which I need to check tomorrow but apart from that they are all okay.’
On facing Fulham
Of course, every clash with a local rival is an important fixture, particularly for supporters, but for Benitez, the focus is firmly fixed on securing a first league win for the Blues since the 4-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur last month.
‘It’s a derby, it’s not the biggest rivalry for us, we respect Fulham but it’s not the biggest derby for the club.’ said the Spaniard.
‘Winning is the most important thing and if we can do it in style that’s even better, but the priority is to do our best, win the game and in terms of the mood it will be a boost for everyone.
‘The mentality and attitude of the players is really good, they don’t appear down at all in training. We are under pressure, they know we have a great responsibility but they are focused on the game.’
On Sunday’s draw with Manchester City
Sunday’s stalemate against Roberto Mancini’s side, taking recent results into consideration, should be seen as a positive.
It was vitally important to keep a clean sheet, and though Benitez was pleased with our defensive performance, he acknowledged that striking the right balance will be imperative in the coming weeks.
‘Obviously we’ve analysed the game,’ he said. ‘The first impression was that against a good team we were strong in defence and earned our first clean sheet since September, so that was quite positive.
‘In terms of possession and attacking it was difficult. Against Juventus, the team had 46 per cent possession but conceded three goals. Sunday’s game was pretty much the same, but we didn’t concede.
‘We are improving in defence, we have to keep the same level in attack and then hopefully we will score goals, it’s about finding the right balance.’
On winning the supporters over
Given the rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool, Benitez’s former club, it was inevitable that his appointment would take some getting used to for a section of our support.
However, the Spaniard respects the feelings of our fans and hopes that, in time, he will be able to win them round.
‘If a player doesn’t have the support of the fans I would tell him to stay focused, try to do his job, don’t be distracted and concentrate on his football,’ said Benitez.
‘I understand the feelings of the fans and I know how they feel because of my time at Liverpool and the rivalry.
‘I want to prove to them that I am here for the right reasons, I am here to win and if I can do it they will be pleased. I concentrate on my coaching and try to improve players, then it will be easier to win games and bring the fans back.
‘All I can say is that I’m working very hard to do my job. I make sure I talk to all the players and I prepare for everything ahead of the game. The only thing I can do is try to win their trust by doing my job. The best way to change things is by winning games.’
On Fernando Torres
The form of Torres, as ever, has been the source of much speculation outside the club, but Benitez, who worked with the striker during their time at Anfield, remains confident he can get the best out of him.
‘I’ll try to give him some confidence, see what he can do in a different way andimprove him – along with the rest of the team – physically,’ he explained.
‘If you are strong in defence, you can regain the ball easier, you will have more chances as you will have more possession, so that’s the idea. We will try to improve the shape of the team but keep their quality and mobility.
‘He’s not exactly the same now because as he was at the maximum level at that time. He can come back and improve but the team has to help him.’
On Cesar Azpilicueta
It was an all-round impressive defensive display on Sunday against Manchester City, but one player who caught the eye was Cesar Azpilicueta.
The Spanish right-back has featured regularly in recent weeks, and Benitez has been impressed with the attitude of his fellow countryman.
‘When a player isn’t playing every week you are expecting something, but I am not the type of manager who expects a player to come in and be perfect,’ he said.