Benitez knows who is up for the fight

Chelsea manager has a special way of telling which players are in the mood for Club World Cup final

Yokahama

He may be a veteran when it comes to preparing his teams for major finals, but Rafa Benitez still feels the tension rising as kick-off approaches. There are many things to fret over but the key, he says, is being able to tell which players to rely on, knowing who is up for the fight.

Sometimes he can see it in their eyes, or he can tell by the way they carry themselves in the warm-up. A place in history is at stake, careers can be made – or broken. Seeing is believing for the manager.

"Sometimes you know [who's ready]," said Benitez, on the eve of his third Club World Cup final.

"In my head I have an idea and have one or two doubts and maybe looking at them gives you that solution. But yes, in the dressing room looking at them, you do know. You think you know. You can see how they are.

"Always, after the warm-up, I ask my staff if they are sharp and paying attention to everything or distracted. Normally, or around 80 per cent of the time, you know, more or less."

There will always be that element of doubt and, if things do go wrong, as they did spectacularly in Istanbul in 2005, when Liverpool trailed the Champions' League final 3-0 to AC Milan after a first half of total domination by the Italians, the manager must fall back on his experience, his ability to adapt and change things. Benitez ticks that box, too.

By talking about that game during his Anfield tenure, after Chelsea had been eliminated in controversial circumstances in the semi-final, he is unlikely to help his stock rise among disgruntled fans. But it was probably the defining moment in his career and one he can be forgiven for reflecting upon.

"I was preparing the speech when it was 2-0 and then we conceded the third goal. I had the idea to change the shape of the team, preparing Didi Hamann," the Spaniard recalled. "The tactical issues were fine, my head was clear, but you have to give your speech, and in English, which was not good.

"I knew the players were down, with their heads down, so it was quite complicated but the message was simple: score one goal and we'll be back in the game. You have to fight for the game and nothing to lose now, you have 45 minutes to change things. Apart from the message, the key was the tactical change because Hamann gave us more control."

Not all these games have enjoyed fairytale endings: defeat in Athens two years later against the same opponents – after again dispatching Chelsea in the last four – came on the heels of a Carling Cup defeat in Cardiff – yes, against Chelsea.

The bad days still rankle, still bother a man driven to distraction by failure. His record in this competition reads one loss in 2005 – hotly disputed, when Liverpool were on the end of some poor decisions by a Mexican referee before going down to Sao Paulo – and one win, two years ago with Inter Milan against the Africans TP Mazembe. "I'm really upset when I lose a game but especially a game like that in a massive competition," he added.

Thursday's serene progress against Monterrey hasn't made the build-up to today's showpiece any less fraught. "It's not a case of not sleeping, but all the time when you are alone, you are thinking, thinking, about what you are going to do," said Benitez, who was so preoccupied he forgot to pass on a good-luck message from injured skipper John Terry. "It could be that someone has a problem in the morning. It's an important game, you want to get things right."

Late yesterday he was mulling over whether to start with Frank Lampard – who will captain the side if he does – or keep David Luiz in midfield, where he was a revelation against the Mexicans. Corinthians will present a greater challenge. "They have good players… Emerson, Paulinho, Cassio in goal and Paolo Guerrero, players who can make the difference. Hopefully we will keep them quiet."

Branislav Ivanovic, who will shoulder some of the responsibility of doing just that, sees this as "a key game for this generation, one of the most important games for all of us. Now we have to play the final and it will be tough. It's the defensive things which decide big games so we have to be ready. I expect a very hard game. That's good for a player. You have to find yourself."

The defender appreciates Benitez's attention to detail. "We've prepared by studying a lot of moments and clips," he said. "We watched Corinthians in the semi so we know it's going to be difficult and how they defend and play well. A final is a completely different game. Small things can decide it. We have to be focused from the first minute to the last one, but the team will be ready for this."

One look into their eyes could be enough to tell if they are.

Probable teams

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Luiz; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres.

Corinthians (4-2-3-1): Cassio; Alessandro, Chicao, Paulo Andre, Fabio Santos; Ralf, Paulinho; Douglas, Danilo, Emerson; Guerrero.

Referee Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

Bottom line for boys from Brazil

Before travelling to Japan, Corinthians fans were issued with warnings by the Brazilian government in the form of picture cards outlining some of the cultural differences they might encounter. One advised them to refrain from feeling women's backsides on trains.

After experiencing the Thursday-Sunday match routine in Japan, perhaps the Europa League won't be such a shock to Chelsea's system.

Sao Paulo has the largest settlement of Japanese outside Japan, and their popularity was enhanced last year when they played with a Japanese message on their shirts which read: "Go Japan" to show support after the earthquake and tsunami.

Brazilian clubs have two wins out of two against English sides in the Club World Cup. Vasco da Gama beat Manchester United 3-1 in the group round in 2000, and Sao Paulo overcame Liverpool 1-0 in the 2005 final.

Fifa are expecting a 70,000 full house at Yokohama's Nissan Stadium, despite the fact that Japan goes to the polls today for a General Election.

Jim Foulerton

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home