Rafael Benitez hails Chelsea character but knows home form is key

Blues beat Stoke 4-0 on Saturday

Click to follow
The Independent Football

There was a moment on Saturday, during a sustained spell of Chelsea first-half possession, when a chorus of "Boring, boring" began to rise from the home crowd at the Britannia Stadium. Chelsea do many things – good and bad – but they rarely do boring and so it proved; Frank Lampard very nearly silenced them with a goal seconds later and by the end the Stoke locals were left picking over the bones of a 4-0 defeat, their team's heaviest at home in the top flight since 1985.

Stoke contributed to their own downfall with Jonathan Walters's two own-goals but they had also brought the best out of Chelsea, who were resolute in defence and impressively incisive higher up the field, where goalscorers Lampard and Eden Hazard, and Juan Mata all shone.

"It is a signal that we have a good team and we have good players with great character," said a satisfied Rafael Benitez after the best result of his 15-match reign. This was Chelsea's sixth straight away success, their biggest in the Premier League for 15 months, and it lifted them into third place. The challenge now is to build on it in the upcoming home league matches against Southampton on Wednesday – their game in hand on the teams above them – and Arsenal on Sunday.

Given the recent home losses to Queen's Park Rangers and Swansea City, and the mutinous mood in the Stamford Bridge stands, this may be less straightforward than it sounds but Benitez insisted that Saturday's result showed his team were progressing along the right lines.

"We have to be as strong, we have to carry on and not think that one bad result will change our ideas, our style, our way to do things, but be sure we are going in the right direction," he said.

Alas for Benitez, he is at the one club in England where one bad result can change everything, and the meticulous Spaniard will know better than anyone that home results must improve.

Only Manchester United have taken more away points than Chelsea's 23 this season, whereas the Blues' home haul of 18 is only the seventh best in the Premier League, equal to Liverpool, Norwich and West Ham.