SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom (AFP) – Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez claims his side’s confidence couldn’t be any higher as they turn their attention to the Club World Cup in Japan this week.
The Blues crashed out of the Champions League on Wednesday and travelled to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on Saturday on the back of their worst domestic run for 18 years.
However, a comprehensive 3-1 win over the Black Cats made it nine goals in the space of four days after Wednesday’s 6-1 rout of Danish side Nordsjaelland and provided a timely morale boost ahead of the trip to Yokohama.
Chelsea take on either South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai or Mexican outfit Monterrey in their opening Club World Cup fixture on Thursday and Benitez believes it could be a successful trip given his side’s upbeat mood.
“I was pleased with the way we played in the Champions League game, with passion and desire right to the end, and this was another good performance,” Benitez said.
“If you are going to a tournament like this it is important to show what you can do on the pitch and play well.
“It’s important to have an opportunity to win any trophy, but especially a trophy like this one.
“I have managed a team (Inter Milan) to victory in the competition before and that was a great experience for me, and hopefully this will be a great experience for the players.
“We are concerned because we know the schedule will be difficult, but we are trying to organise everything properly.
“It might not be ideal because we have to go and then play a game in three days time, but we will try to do our best.”
Saturday’s victory over Sunderland came courtesy of a first-half double from Fernando Torres, who scored with a first-time volley and a penalty, and a second-half strike from Juan Mata.
Adam Johnson threatened to spark a Sunderland revival with a curled effort, but Chelsea ran out comfortable winners.
The only negative for the Blues was a knee injury to Oriel Romeu that is likely to prevent the Spanish midfielder from travelling to Japan.
“He will return to London and the doctor will look at him to see how he is,” Benitez said.
“But when a player leaves the pitch limping and we have to go to Japan right now, it will be difficult for him.
“At the moment, he has to stay with the doctor and make sure everything is fine.”
Sunderland have dropped into the bottom three for the first time this season as their dismal run extended to one win from their last 10 league matches, and boss Martin O’Neill acknowledged that Tuesday’s home game with fellow strugglers Reading has assumed increased importance.
“The goals either side of half-time were major setbacks to us, but we played very strongly,” O’Neill said. “The players put a big effort in, which was appreciated by the crowd.
“Even though we were defeated, we can feel as though we’ve got something to take with us into the next match.
“Tuesday is a big game, but it was always going to be that. If we win the game we lift ourselves up to the 15th in the league, but it is the points on the board which are more important.”