Saturday’s 4-0 win at Stoke City was our sixth successive victory away from home, but as we prepare to entertain Southampton in the Premier League tomorrow, Rafael Benitez is hopeful his side can secure our first win of 2013 at Stamford Bridge, closing the gap on the leaders in the process…
On squad news
Having been shorn of the services of our captain for two months, John Terry made his long-awaited return as a late substitute during the weekend win at the Brittania, and the manager is pleased with his progression.
Benitez also reported there are no fresh injury worries ahead of tomorrow’s match.
‘He was training yesterday and today with the rest of the team,’ said the Spaniard. ‘He is fine, he has to play games to improve his match fitness but the sessions with the team will help.
‘Oriol Romeu is still unavailable, and we are still without the two players who are away at the African Cup of Nations (John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses).’
On our home form
Two successive defeats at Stamford Bridge – against Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City – are certainly out of character for a side who, over the years, have become renowned for our impressive home form, and Benitez acknowledged the importance of putting that right.
‘We are doing very well away, but at home the other teams wait deep and we have less space,’ he said. ‘We are still creating chances but we have to be more clinical. If we score goals and take our chances it will be completely different because the other team will be more open, but if that’s not the case, like it has been in the last two games, it becomes more difficult.
‘When you play away and have space, with the players we have they can make a big difference. When you play at home and there are 11 men behind the ball, you have to find space and be more precise. We know we have to do different movements.
‘We have confidence we can do well, like we did against Aston Villa and Nordsjaelland. We’ve had games at home when we’ve done well, but the last two games have been difficult and it’s something we have to improve on.’
On closing the gap
With this particular fixture originally scheduled to take place in December, we find ourselves with a game in hand on the majority of our closest rivals.
Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal both dropped points at the weekend, but with plenty of football left to play between now and the end of the season, Benitez insisted it’s those teams above us who we have fixed in our sights.
‘I don’t like to see the table every weekend, it’s important for us to keep winning games and if we can do that by playing well and scoring a lot of goals that will be good for us,’ said the Blues boss.
‘If you see the statistics they are good; we are scoring a lot of goals and not conceding too many, and that is the balance we have been looking for. We need to get three points in every game and see where we are in a few weeks.’
On Lucas Piazon heading out on loan and the possibility of Romelu Lukaku being recalled
Benitez confirmed that Piazon, who made his Premier League debut in our 8-0 win against Aston Villa last month, will be joining Malaga on loan until the end of the season, but cited Lukaku’s impressive run of form at West Bromwich Albion as a good reason for the Belgian to remain at the Hawthorns.
‘We have an agreement with Malaga, so Lucas will go there, and it’s a loan until the end of the season,’ said Benitez.
‘It’s not easy. Lukaku went there and is doing well, it’s part of his development, playing in the Premier League and getting experience. We will see, you never say never because something may happen tomorrow and you have a problem, but at the moment the idea is for him to stay there and gain more experience.’