Rafael Benitez hinted that tonight’s Capital One Cup clash against Leeds United could see him utilise the full depth of his squad.
A victory at Elland Road would see the Blues secure our passage into the semi-finals of the competition, but with the players having only returned from the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan on Monday, fitness and fatigue could be an issue, as the manager acknowledged.
‘Sometimes I decide to change the team and play different players because we have so many games, and certain players need a rest,’ said Benitez. ‘You have an opportunity in these type of games.
‘Ashley Cole is a fantastic player, he’s playing every game and he’s doing really well, but after playing so many games, will he be fitter than Ryan Bertrand, who hasn’t played as much, is younger and is ready?
‘Each game is different. I’m sure Bertrand will be desperate to play, and maybe he’s the strongest player in this position for the game.
‘Sometimes you decide on one particular player; he may not be the biggest name, but maybe he’s the best player for the game. It’s difficult to find the balance but you have to think about different points of view.
‘The problem is that we’ve been playing every game with almost 11 players, you have to change that, especially at Christmas with a busy schedule, playing the same players all the time.’
A change in personnel could yield a return to the starting line-up for Oscar, who was a second-half substitute for Sunday’s Club World Cup final defeat to Corinthians.
Benitez was pleased at the youngster’s reaction to being left out of the starting line-up, but stressed the importance of assessing the bigger picture.
‘Oscar is a good lad and very professional,’ said the Spaniard. ‘He was really surprised but his reaction has been very positive. We don’t have an issue.
‘He’s not happy if he’s not playing, which is fantastic. If it was the opposite, that would be a problem for me. He is one of those players who are keen to learn, he would be happy playing every game, but all of the players need to understand that the most important thing is the team.
‘Oscar is a young player who is new in the Premier League. I’m trying to manage these players, especially in that position because we also have [Juan] Mata and [Eden] Hazard.
‘It’s good for me to have different options. There is no problem, he will have a lot of minutes, I’m really pleased with him and I’m sure he will be a great player for the club.’
The 1-0 defeat against Corinthians put an end to a three-game winning run, and there is no underestimating the significance of a victory in Yorkshire this evening, particularly heading into a hectic festive period.
Thus far, however, Benitez is pleased with the manner in which the players have responded to his philosophies and ideas.
‘At the moment they are fully committed and training hard,’ he explained. ‘We are trying to talk with them and explain what we are trying to do.
‘They are pleased with the ideas and you can see in training sessions that everybody is doing their best to be in the team.
‘If you don’t play well or win games for two or three months it becomes difficult, not just for me but for any manager.
‘The name of the manager doesn’t matter because if you are at a club fighting for trophies, the players will want to win. If you are giving the right message and doing the right things they will support you.’