The Blues will look to make it three successive home wins in the space of a week when Sunderland visit Stamford Bridge later today, but while the Black Cats’ new manager Paolo Di Canio is expected to dominate the headlines, Rafael Benitez is focused solely on ensuring his team secure three much-needed points.
Last Monday’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Manchester United was followed three days later by a 3-1 victory over Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, and today’s game represents a good opportunity to get back on track in the race to finish in the top four following last weekend’s disappointing 2-1 defeat at Southampton.
‘The main thing is that we are playing Sunderland, the manager can’t make that much of a difference if they don’t have the right players,’ said Benitez.
‘Hopefully we will talk about football and Chelsea scoring a lot of goals and playing a great game. Afterwards you can maybe talk about Di Canio, but for me the main thing is my team and football.
‘Every game I just focus on my team, I’m not concerned about the attention, I just try to stay focused.’
Di Canio was handed the reins at the Stadium of Light shortly after Sunderland’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester United last Saturday.
The result may have ultimately cost Martin O’Neill his job, but of more concern to the visitors will be the fact they are now only one point above the relegation zone, a statistic, as Benitez explained, which poses its own problems for us.
‘It’s always more difficult when you play against a team who are fighting relegation because they can be more focused and have more determination, but I have confidence in our team,’ he explained.
‘If we play in the style we know we can, I won’t be worried about any opponent, we just need to concentrate on our own game.’
Today’s match will be our fourth in eight days, with Benitez once again expected to rotate a number of his squad in a bid to keep things fresh.
Having been ineligible to play in the game against Rubin Kazan, Demba Ba is available once more, and with both of his strikers in good form, Benitez has a nice selection problem.
‘Normally you have to change some players, I don’t know how many, it depends how they are, we will see before we pick the team,’ said the Blues boss. ‘I don’t know how many we will change but we will change some of them.
‘We will see because Fernando scored two goals against Rubin Kazan and Demba scored against Manchester United, so we will see, but we haven’t decided yet.’
The defeat at St Mary’s, particularly with both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal winning, makes securing a positive result this afternoon even more pivotal, but with a game in hand over Andre Villas Boas’ side, Benitez is content for us to be in control of our own destiny, and a third successive win would certainly do the confidence and belief among the group no harm as we embark on an important period.
‘We still have some games to play; you can lose or you can win, but it depends on the other teams as well,’ said the Spaniard. ‘The good thing is that we still have one game in hand, if we win it we will be third, so it depends on us if we can stay at the top.
‘If we can [win three in a row] it will be perfect, a great achievement because with so many games to keep winning and playing good football is quite positive.’