Rafael Benitez will face his steepest challenge as Chelsea interim manager tonight as he attempts to overturn a 2-0 deficit at Swansea City. The reward is a place in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley and Benitez – an old hand at two-legged football at Valencia and Liverpool – believes he can mastermind victory.
"I'm really pleased to win any game, but I have confidence we can do well," Benitez said today. Chelsea's away form since his appointment has been excellent – they have scored in all seven games under his management, including impressive wins at Everton, Stoke and Southampton.
"This is a different kind of game. They're winning at the moment, but our approach has to be exactly the same. Yes, we have confidence that we can do it. Obviously, we will play against a good team. But remember the first leg: there were a lot of chances, we made two mistakes and they scored. We have to manage the situation but, games away, we're good. We can do it."
There have been some disappointing results under his management – especially at home – but Benitez insisted that performances had been consistently defensible under difficult circumstances.
"We didn't have a pre-season. We were in Japan. We had [John] Terry, [Frank] Lampard injured," Benitez explained. "You can put stats in any way you want, but the stats say we're scoring more goals, conceding less."
"In the games we've lost, the team have still done well. Look at any of these games: Corinthians, Swansea, QPR, West Ham. The team was in a transitional period, with some new players needing to settle down and others coming to the end of the contract. It's a team that's improving. As a manager you have to be satisfied with this."
John Terry may make his first start back for Chelsea since November, having returned to the bench recently. "He was training, doing well, and obviously he will need match fitness," Benitez said. "He's training well. He had a hard training session today. Today he's trained again, adjusting the team and doing some tactics. He'll be involved in the squad and is an option."
Another veteran, Ashley Cole, signed a one-year extension to his Chelsea contract today. The 32-year-old England international, was widely expected to leave with fellow veteran Frank Lampard this summer. But while there is little prospect of Lampard being made a new offer, Cole has agreed to stay at Chelsea for another season.
"I wanted to stay at Chelsea because we are always fighting and challenging for trophies," Cole said. "That desire and the will to want to win things have not gone."
Benitez brushed off criticisms from former Internazionale defender and Italy international Marco Materazzi – famously loyal to Benitez's Inter predecessor Jose Mourinho – after the player said the Chelsea manager "could not be trusted". Benitez said: "He's lying, he's lying, he's lying, just lying. Everything he has said is a lie. He cannot discredit anyone because everyone knows him. Forget about him."
Odds to reach final: Swansea City 1-3. Chelsea 9-4.
Kick-off 7.45pm. TV Sky Sports 1.
Referee C Foy (St Helens).Reuse content