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Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012
Benitez plays down pressure as Chelsea arrives for Club World Cup
YOKOHAMA — Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez insists his side is under no extra pressure to win the Club World Cup this week after making an early exit from the Champions League, shrugging off speculation he may lose his job less than three weeks after taking over on an interim basis.
European champions Chelsea arrived in Japan late Sunday night in search of their first-ever world title, with a semifinal against Mexican side Monterrey first up in Yokohama on Thursday before a possible final against Brazil's Corinthians three days later.
The Londoners will be looking for sanctuary in Japan after becoming the first Champions League title-holders to crash out at the group stage last week and slipping 10 points behind leaders Manchester United in the Premier League, but Benitez denies the Club World Cup has taken on greater significance in the wake of recent results.
"I think everyone here at this club has the same idea as me, and that's to win every trophy that we can," the Spaniard said at Chelsea's first news conference in Yokohama on Monday. "We have an opportunity now and it doesn't matter what happened with the others, it's just this one.
"It's really important for us and we will try to win it. Whether we are in the Champions League or not, it's just this one and we will try to win it."
Benitez will also be looking to lay down a marker of his own over the coming week, with Chelsea fans still cold toward the former Liverpool manager since taking over from terrace favorite Roberto di Matteo late last month. Benitez has not been helped by a slow start that yielded only two points from his first three league games in charge, but the 52-year-old refuses to dwell on suggestions he may be gone before his contract expires at the end of the season.
"We have an economic crisis around the world and everyone is under pressure, so I don't have any problem in terms of pressure," he said. "I have some experience and I would like to enjoy every minute here and try to do my best and try to win. I think the future is the next game, and after that the next one."
Chelsea left for Japan immediately after beating Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday to give Benitez his first league win, with Fernando Torres scoring twice to take his tally to four in the space of a week. Benitez has been credited for planting the seeds of the struggling striker's tentative return to form having previously worked together at Liverpool, but the manager insists his players have done the work for him.
"We can give the players advice and work with them, but the teammates make the difference," he said. "Fernando is in a good position now because the team is creating more chances. Because the team is doing well I can communicate with him in a different way, but the main thing for me is the teammates."
Chelsea qualified for the Club World Cup by beating Bayern Munich on penalties in May's Champions League final, crowning the club European champions for the first time after a series of near-misses over the past decade. Goalkeeper Petr Cech has shared in the frustration since joining from Rennes in 2004, but the 30-year-old is determined to seize his chance with the world title now finally within reach.
"I'm very happy that I can be here because it means a lot for every player if you can play at such a great tournament," Cech said. "You only get your invitation when you win the Champions League, and it's not easy. I had to wait eight years with Chelsea to get entry to this tournament, so I hope we will make the most of it and win."
Benitez's arrival means Cech has now played under eight Chelsea managers, but the goalkeeper has no time to dwell on owner Roman Abramovich's employment policy ahead of Thursday's game against Monterrey.
"Everyone has his own style and philosophy of football," Cech said. "As a player the main target is to adapt quickly and to work well to make the manager pick you every time."