Benitez finally gets warm welcome as Chelsea's manager

Rafael Benitez looked a man at ease, 70 floors up in Chelsea's swanky hotel in Yokohama Bay, with its unrestricted views of Mount Fuji. Perhaps he was reflecting on the adoring welcome that has been afforded him and his team since they landed in Japan on Sunday. After all, it is at odds with the reception he has been used to since replacing Roberto Di Matteo as manager.

Maybe, too, there is something about the Japanese attention to detail that pleases him. It is a quality he sees in himself and one which he feels could prove the difference when Chelsea face Mexican champions Monterrey here tomorrow.

Benitez seems to thrive in this kind of competition, having won it with Inter Milan in 2010 and also secured a Champions League triumph with Liverpool five years earlier. Away from the daily rigours of the Premier League, he can find the time to apply his tactical nous to greater effect. "I think because it's a short competition you have to be ready, to prepare every game," he said. "I always take care of the details and in this competition you make one mistake in a game and it will cost you and maybe that means you can't make the final. I like to analyse everything so maybe we have an advantage.

"I pay attention to these things and [it helps] in the Champions League or the Club World Cup… it's not like the league where anything can happen over nine months. Here, one mistake can make the difference so you have to be aware of this.

"It's not just a case of knockout football. Yes I have had success with teams in that kind of competition but at the same time we won the league twice in Spain [with Valencia] and we were runners-up in England [at Liverpool]."

Benitez suffered a blow with the news midfielder Oriol Romeu is likely to be out for six months after knee surgery, but he will have been lifted by the return to fitness of Frank Lampard, who came on as a substitute at Sunderland on Saturday following injury and has looked sharp in training.

"None of us has [this trophy] on our CV so as a club, and individually, it's a big deal," said Lampard yesterday. "The hard work was winning the Champions League, which was a great thing for the club, but now we have more hard work to do. In the Super Cup [against Atletico Madrid], we failed on the day, which was very disappointing, so we need to approach these two games with the right attitude."

Comments