Benitez tries to keep his focus while players deal with jetlag

 

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First the small matter of conquering the world, then worry about domestic matters. That appears to be the mantra of Rafael Benitez, an interim manager with an industrial-sized in tray.

If the Spaniard is not fretting about his players' jetlag, he might be pondering Frank Lampard's future, concerning himself with a new ball that is too hard, trying to outwit a Mexican coach whom he holds in high regard, or rebuffing questions about bringing in Theo Walcott and letting go Daniel Sturridge.

Yet it has been the Mexican champions Monterrey chiefly occupying his waking hours (and there are plenty of those). "We know the team, we have staff who have collected videos and I've watched games too," he said. "They can play the passing game, they like to play it on the floor and move it easily, but can also play directly. It'll be an interesting test."

His centre-half Gary Cahill agrees, and said: "They're a good footballing side. They also have the option to play long to the big striker and can play off the second balls. They've got some talented footballers."

Benitez's biggest fear is that his team, clear favourites today, could be caught napping in every sense. "My main focus and that of my players is to try and sleep more than four hours," he said. "It's quite difficult. We've tried to adapt to the time, the pitch, the ball. Everything. It's all a bit new, but we've done everything we have to do.

"Each person is different. You have to feel fine or not. If you sleep four hours, for us it is not the main thing, but for a player who has to compete, sleep is really important. To be here 11 days, settling down is a real advantage."

The fact that the Mexicans have had more time to acclimatise is probably the only advantage they have over their opponents in the Fifa Club World Cup. Benitez believes his team are equipped to reach Sunday's final against Corinthians, 1-0 winners over Al Ahly of Egypt in yesterday's first semi-final. But he is aware of the pitfalls that lie in wait and recalled a shock result in the 2010 event in the UAE that helped his Internazionale team win the title, as the Congolese side TP Mazembe knocked out Internacional in the semi-final to present the Italians with an easier task in the final.

"I was joking with [Chelsea's Brazilian playmaker] Oscar, who was at [Internacional] Porto Alegre. They should have won against Mazembe but they lost. So you never know."

Benitez would not be drawn on Oscar's hopes of starting today, despite his replacing the stricken Oriol Romeu in the win at Sunderland. But Lampard, who came back from injury as a late substitute at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, is unlikely to start. "I don't know yet. It's a tricky decision. I don't think he will be ready for 90 minutes," Benitez said.

Lampard's body language after training suggested he may be spending most of the 90 minutes on the bench, but his latest manager would not be drawn on his future. "My concern is now, I don't know the future," Benitez said. "I will try to bring the best from him for every game."

Whether Chelsea return as world champs or chumps, there is talk of where to strengthen the squad next month. Benitez was asked if Sturridge was lined up to sign for Liverpool. "I have no idea. I know there have been some contacts. The club are working and thinking about January."

He said of the long-term injury to Romeu that "maybe it can change something" but would not discuss any possible move for Arsenal's Walcott. "If I say I like the player, it will be 'he wants him'," Benitez said.

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