Chelsea look to overcome another setback
YOKOHAMA, Japan (AFP) –
Interim coach Rafael Benitez insists Chelsea still have all to play for despite another debilitating defeat, this time at the end of an arduous mid-season trip to the Club World Cup in Japan.
Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Corinthians of Brazil marked the latest in a series of major disappointments for Chelsea after they became the first European Champions League holders to be dumped out of the tournament at the group stage.
In August Chelsea were humiliated 4-1 by Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup and the Londoners now have nothing to show from their debut in FIFA’s tournament of continental champions.
But after the setback in Yokohama, Benitez said the trip across nine time zones had been worthwhile as he looks to pick up his players for Wednesday night’s trip to Leeds United for the Capital One Cup, formerly the Carling Cup.
“I said before we have five trophies to challenge for. Now we have four. The positive thing is we saw very good play the other day (against Monterrey in the semi-final) and we saw lots of good things today,” the under-fire Benitez said.
“Still, we know we have to improve things,” he added.
“The team did what they had to do (against Corinthians). We are improving every day, every week, so hopefully it will be the same next week and hopefully it will get easier to win games.
“There are lots of positive things (to take).”
Former Liverpool boss Benitez has faced fan hostility since replacing Roberto Di Matteo last month. Under his interim management, Chelsea lie third in the Premiership but risk falling further out of league contention this weekend.
If Manchester United beat Swansea on Sunday, before Chelsea take on Aston Villa that day, the Blues will be 16 points behind their league rivals.
Midfielder Frank Lampard said the defeat in Japan would be difficult to take but that the players must get over it and focus on the remainder of the season.
As well as the Capital One Cup, Chelsea are also in the Europa League — the booby prize for finishing third in the group stages of the Champions League — and the FA Cup which they are yet to play in this season.
“It is tough to come all this way and not win it,” Lampard said.
“We had enough chances to at least draw the match.
“We have to win a run of games in the league now. We’ve got the league, the Europa League, the Capital One Cup and the FA Cup coming up.
“We have to move on.”
Unlike South American champions Corinthians, Chelsea were competing in the intercontinental tournament for the first time and Benitez was left to rue a number of missed chances for the Londoners.
Corinthians striker Paolo Guerrero got the goal on 69 minutes but Benitez felt it was a string of saves from goalkeeper Cassio, later named player of the tournament, that made the difference.
“At the moment it’s just about trying to be in the best mood possible,” the Spaniard said as his squad readied for the 12-hour flight home.
“We go back, we have to start preparing for the next game, analysing the team we will play against, (that’s) what we have to do.
“It’s just to carry on trying to be strong mentally. They (the players) will have some hours after the defeat. Then we have to be ready for the next challenge.”