Rafael Benitez wants to be big in Japan – and in the Premier League title chase

Chelsea manager says Blues will soon be putting pressure on the Manchester clubs

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The Independent Football

Rafa Benitez claims he has already improved Chelsea and they will start to put pressure on Manchester United and Manchester City in the title race after the Club World Cup in Japan.

The manager, still disliked by fans because of his Liverpool past, can take credit for back-to-back wins in the last week and the return to scoring form of Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker scored twice in Saturday's 3-1 win at Sunderland, following his Champions League double against Nordsjælland, and explained: "We are playing a bit differently now. We do not pass the ball as much as we did in the final third and we play a bit more direct."

Benitez has seen enough to believe that his new side can still have an impact on the title race and wants to win silverware in Japan this week to give them even more belief.

"I think those odds [on Chelsea winning the title] will be reduced now," he said. "I knew about the quality of the team but obviously we needed to improve the balance. In the last two games the team have shown the character. If we play at this level and at this intensity we will win games in a row and hopefully we will be there.

"You have to remember last year in January everyone was saying that Manchester City would win the title easily, and yet at the end on the last day they could have lost it and had to score in the last minute to win it."

As Chelsea prepared to fly to Japan without Oriol Romeu, who injured his knee at Sunderland, Benitez confirmed his commitment to trying to win the Club World Cup. "Now we have a trophy to win and we will try to win it," he said. "For a top side like Chelsea, every trophy is an opportunity.

"You have just two or three training sessions before games and you cannot improve everything that you want. But we will have more time in Japan, three days in the hotel. We can talk, we can analyse more things and little by little they will get to the level at which we want to see them.

"I have some reports from friends and from scouts on the other teams but I said I would look at them after Sunderland. I think I can read a lot of that on the plane. In Europe we don't normally appreciate this tournament but in South America and the other continents it is massive. They realise the best teams in Europe and America are there. I know from experience of playing against Sao Paolo that this will be massive for them."