Rafael Benitez finally gets a warm welcome as Chelsea manager... 6,000 miles away
Blues in Japan for the Club World Cup
Tuesday 11 December 2012
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 Internazionale 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]."
Fernando Torres suggested Chelsea's turn of fortune which brought wins against Nordsjaelland and Sunderland has been partly down to a more direct style of play. Benitez certainly feels that, if they can match the Mexicans tactically, then his side's pace and power could prove crucial.
But how else does he plan to undo tomorrow's opponents, having had so little time to prepare? "You have to watch as much as you can," he said. "You have your staff watching games and analysing them. The club has people there and there are players we know in Mexico who may help."
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. "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"
However, he did acknowledge that when the team return from Japan they have "a mountain to climb" to get back into the title race. "It's certainly not over, but pre-Christmas we've given ourselves a really tough task, which is what we did last year," said Lampard.
"We fell away and never recovered. We need an instant reaction following the Sunderland game, we need to go on and on, and it's important that when we get back from Japan, and we've faced Leeds [in the Capital One Cup], we then need to re-focus and get as many points as we can."
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