Benitez denies feeling pressure at Chelsea
YOKOHAMA, Japan (AFP) –
Interim Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez on Monday denied feeling any added pressure going into the Club World Cup in Japan, despite his side exiting the Champions League at the first hurdle last week.
The London club, appearing in the intercontinental event for the first time, will take on Mexican side Monterrey in the semi-finals at Yokohama International Stadium on Thursday.
They come into the tournament on the back of a win at Sunderland on Saturday — a victory which ended a poor run of results, including two draws and a defeat in Benitez’s first three games in charge since replacing Roberto Di Matteo.
It also came days after the Blues became the first Champions League holders to fail to progress past the group stage of the premier European competition.
“I don’t have any problem in terms of pressure,” said Benitez, who won the Club World Cup as Inter Milan coach two years ago.
“I have some experience and I would like to enjoy every minute that I am here and try to do my best and try to win,” the Spaniard told a news conference in Yokohama.
Benitez, who was sacked just five days after leading Inter to glory in 2010, said the Japan showpiece provided his team with a good chance to collect some silverware.
“Everyone at this club has the same idea as me: to win every trophy that we can,” the 52-year-old said.
“So we have this opportunity now. It doesn’t matter if we are in the Champions League or not. This one is very important for us.”
Benitez said he was aware of the threat posed by Monterrey, who thrashed South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai 3-1 on Sunday to avenge a quarter-final defeat last year.
“Monterrey, they have a slight advantage, as…they’ve been here (before) and they had a very good game yesterday,” he said.
“We have already started to plan and I’m looking forward to the game.”
If Chelsea triumph against the CONCACAF winners they will face either Egypt’s Al-Ahly or South American champions Corinthians — who also enter at the last-four stage — in the final on December 16.
Benitez, who in 2005 was manager of Liverpool when the Reds lost to Sao Paulo in the final of what was then called the Club World Championship, said he had not yet thought about how to defeat the Copa Libertadores winners.
“The key is (to take it) step by step, so I don’t speak about Corinthians now. I think they have a big chance to win that game, but for now we focus on our first game.”
Benitez hinted that he expected much-maligned striker Fernando Torres to light up the tournament.
Torres, who has struggled since his 50-million-pound ($80-million) move from Liverpool almost two years ago, enters the Japan event in a rich vein of form, having scored four goals in his last two games.
“Fernando is in a good position now, because the team is creating more chances,” Benitez said.