Tuesday 16 January 2018

Benitez fully focused on Corinthians clash

Ben Rumsby

RAFAEL Benitez was today relishing the "amazing" opportunity of a third Club World Cup final but refused to contemplate the implications of the result for his Chelsea future.

Tomorrow will see Benitez become the first manager to lead out a team three times in what is the climax of the competition when the Blues face Corinthians in Yokohama.

The outcome could have a profound effect on whether interim boss Benitez succeeds in convincing Chelsea to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge and supporters that he is not the enemy.

But the former Liverpool boss said: "I am not worried about what is going on in the future.

"I am worried about what is going on tomorrow."

He added: "I cannot manage the other things."

Benitez knows more than anyone what it takes to win the Club World Cup, having done so with Inter Milan two years ago after controversially losing the 2005 final with Liverpool.

"I'm really pleased, I'm really proud, because I could manage three top sides in the world," he said.

"To be here and to have this opportunity to win again is amazing and is fantastic.

"I know that it is a very important competition.

"Some people say that it is not the biggest in the world.

"We know that the Copa Libertadores or Champions League are maybe a little bit different because you play 13 games and you play during the whole season.

"To be here, you have to be champions.

"After, you have to win."

Benitez revealed he had yet to decide on his starting line-up, particularly whether to hand Frank Lampard a first start since his recovery from a calf problem.

"The good thing about this team, this squad, is I can choose any player and I'm sure that they will perform," Benitez said. "Frank is one of these players. He's a good player, a very good player.

"Still, I don't have the team in my head.

"After talking with my staff, we will decide."

Asked if defender David Luiz might keep his place in midfield after starting there for the first time in a Chelsea shirt, Benitez joked: "Why not?"

He added: "We are thinking about this option not just for this game.

"Could be tomorrow, could be for the future."

The Spaniard has succeeded in arresting the alarming slide that led to his appointment last month, although he was unable to prevent Chelsea crashing out of the Champions League.

"I did fear not being in the Champions League might be a negative," he said.

"It took a few days to recover from that but now we have.

"I feel the disappointment actually motivated the squad. We have other competitions to win, starting tomorrow."

He added: "I am trying to keep the winning mentality, the hunger to win trophies."

Chelsea are firm favourites to beat Corinthians but Benitez knows from bitter experience at Liverpool that does not always equate to success.

"It's not important who are the favourites," he said.

"Corinthians are a good and balanced team. It is difficult to find their faults."

He added: "When you talk about Brazilian clubs, you always have to mention they have an organised system and know what to do.

"Like Sao Paulo were in 2005, they are very good defensively so it's difficult to create opportunities against them."

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