Rafael Benitez has insisted that his Chelsea team could still win the Premier League title after they slipped seven points behind leaders Manchester United with their second successive goalless home draw under the new interim manager.
Chelsea have now won just two of their last 10 games in all competitions and striker Fernando Torres's wait for a goal in the Premier League now stretches to 648 minutes back to the victory over Norwich City on 6 October. Asked whether his side could still win the league, Benitez said: "Why can't we?"
He added: "It's still a long way to go. We have to keep going. We'll have chances. Remember last season when Manchester City were ahead and it was [perceived as being] easy. Then they needed to win their last game. It's a long, long competition.'
Benitez said that he still regards the club as competing on all five fronts for a trophy, including the Champions League and the Club World Cup in Japan where they travel on 9 December. It was the forthcoming fixture pressure – they will play nine games next month if they reach the final in Yokohama – that convinced him last night to rest Juan Mata, who later came on as a substitute, and John Obi Mikel.
There were also less hostility for Benitez from the home fans. He said: "Maybe from my point of view, but I was just concentrating on the game. The fans realise to support the team and support the manager is the best way to move forward and win games."
Benitez said that it was "not a case of Fernando" being the only one to struggle last night against Fulham. He said: "You saw how they defended with a lot of bodies there. It wasn't easy for him, or [Eden] Hazard or Oscar. We were on top of them, regaining the game higher up the pitch, and might have won it in the last minute.
"You cannot be satisfied when you haven't won these games. Manchester City [last Sunday's opponents] are a top side, a team with a lot of options. [Against Fulham] I saw a lot of positive things, sustaining the attacks and regaining the ball very high. I didn't like the two chances we gave away on the counter-attack, and when we didn't move the ball too quickly, but it's a question of time. We've only had a few training sessions. We need more time."
Returning to the question of Torres, he said: "It's a question of confidence. He's not scoring goals, so it's confidence. But it's not easy when you're playing against lots of defenders."
Benitez said that both Frank Lampard and John Terry would travel with the squad to Japan, in the hope that they will return to fitness around that time. Lampard is now sufficiently recovered to be training with the rest of the squad.
The Fulham manager, Martin Jol, said that his side might have "nicked a win" but was satisfied with the point. "I'm not disappointed to only get a draw away from home, but disappointed we didn't make more of those chances. [Dimitar] Berbatov was almost unplayable and linked our play, and we had a few chances. After the game everyone said Berbatov was fantastic, and he was, but the other players worked ever so hard."