Rafael Benitez has been discussing some of his in-form players as he prepares the squad for the visit of Swansea on Sunday afternoon.
After a narrow victory in Basel on Thursday night, the manager has had only limited time to focus on Michael Laudrup’s side, but having faced them in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup, a competition they went on to win, Benitez is confident he will know what to expect, and that he has the tools to triumph.
‘They have a nice style and are dangerous in possession, so I think they will do well in Europe,’ the Spaniard said. ‘They have done things in a way they like to do, and they are doing well.
‘In the [first leg] we had three or four chances and could have scored goals, but made two mistakes,’ he continued, referring to our 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge. ‘We were disappointed for that but the performance was not as bad as the result. We deserved to score at home, so hopefully we can do well and score this time.
‘As soon as we lost the first game we knew the second was quite difficult. David Luiz was coming back from injury, and we know about Eden Hazard and the ballboy. We were really disappointed because we knew we could do it but we didn’t do it.’
Against Basel, the performances of both Hazard and David Luiz, who featured in central midfield, impressed Benitez. He was asked whether the suspension that followed his dismissal in January had reinvigorated Hazard after an explosive start to life in England.
‘He was a good player before and still is,’ he said of Hazard who alongside Juan Mata is nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award. ‘It was bad for us because we lost him for three games. He is doing well. At the beginning they didn’t know him, and also Oscar, so he was dynamic and difficult to stop. Afterwards defenders adjusted themselves but still you can see his quality.
‘He has a special talent and can change without thinking and be effective. He likes to play in the number 10 position and it is one of our strengths to have three players who can play in this position.
‘We have some good players who can be Player of the Year. Another is David Luiz, he has played the whole season at a very good level, and playing so many games in different positions.
‘He has more control. We talk about what I expect from him. He is a clever player with quality and it’s a question of time before he gets better and better. We tried to tell him he doesn’t need to go to ground, he is a clever player. He likes to play, and as a midfielder he can go forward and is a threat.
‘In this position you have to run more than as a centre-back, so I will talk to him, see how he feels [for Swansea] and after we will decide. We also have Ramires or Frank Lampard so we will see.
‘In defence, Gary Cahill is available. On Thursday I needed to decide which kind of players, experience or pace, and with David in the middle I could see we were protected and wanted to play with experience.’