LEEDS, United Kingdom (AFP) – Rafael Benitez has called on his Chelsea stars to erase the bitter memory of their Club World Cup final defeat by moving closer to their first silverware of the season with victory over Leeds in the League Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Benitez’s team returned from Japan just over 48 hours before their trip to Elland Road having lost to Brazilian side Corinthians in the Club World Cup final on Sunday.
Chelsea have already been eliminated from the Champions League and were beaten in the Community Shield by Manchester City in August when Roberto di Matteo was manager.
And for Chelsea interim manager Benitez, whose side are currently 13 points behind leaders Manchester United in the Premier League, the League Cup appears to be their safest bet for silverware, with Swansea, Aston Villa and League Two outfit Bradford, the conquerors of Arsenal, already in the semi-final draw.
“I said before we have five trophies to challenge for, now we have four,” Benitez said.
“We go back, play Leeds in the League Cup and then Aston Villa at the weekend, so we need to be strong mentally. We have to be ready for the next challenge.”
Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder Juan Mata is hopeful his team can put a smile back on the supporters’ faces after a traumatic few months, starting with a win over old rivals Leeds.
“I hope we can enjoy good moments and lift more trophies for the club and for you very soon,” he said.
“We are still playing to win four trophies and we will give everything we have to success in each of them.”
Benitez will make changes for the Leeds game as John Obi Mikel, Ramires and Gary Cahill are suspended, the latter because of his red card in the Corinthians match.
That could open the door for fringe men Paulo Ferreira, Ryan Bertand, Marko Marin and Daniel Sturridge.
Midfielder Lucas Piazon started in both previous rounds, against Wolves and Manchester United, but may have talked himself out of this game by questioning his team-mates’ desire on Sunday.
The Brazilian teenager, who was an unused substitute that day, was quoted as saying: “We lacked character and a love for the shirt. Nobody wanted the ball. At least Oscar tried.
“The team lacked willing. You don’t go into a final without the desire to play the ball, that’s unacceptable.”