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Benitez keeps lid on Chelsea's rising title challenge

LIVERPOOL: Interim coach Rafael Benitez says Chelsea have no thoughts about a title challenge despite closing on the Manchester clubs after a fourth straight victory.

Chelsea's 2-1 win at Everton on Sunday moved them to within four points of second-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.

But they remain 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester United and, despite the clear progress being made by the Stamford Bridge club, Benitez maintains it is too soon to consider Chelsea potential challengers.

''We have a game in hand but we still have to win it,'' the Spaniard said. ''Our idea is to approach the competition thinking about one game at a time. We are not watching the table too much. We are just thinking about the next game and the next three points we will be trying to win. We will see where we are after some more games.''

Benitez was an unpopular appointment with the club's fans following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, who guided Chelsea to the Champions League trophy last season.

But the interim manager feels Chelsea's unsuccessful trip to the Club World Cup in Japan has helped his players to adopt his ideas.


The Blues were beaten in the final by Brazilian side Corinthians but former Liverpool manager Benitez thinks the heavy training schedule has been the key to their improvement.

That defeat was the only match Chelsea have not won in their past seven games in all competitions.

''There is a process of understanding each other, and the players knowing what we want,'' he said. ''The trip to Japan was important for us because we were together for a long time, training. We had at least two or three sessions where we could work on new things, and you can see it working out. We are still making some mistakes that we have to manage, but the team is much better.''

Everton pulled in front in the first minute at Goodison Park when Steven Pienaar drove in after Victor Anichebe's header came back off the post. But Frank Lampard pulled one back with a header just before half-time, then adding a decisive second with a close-range finish midway through the second half.

At Loftus Road, Liverpool strolled to a 3-0 win over bottom club QPR, with all goals arriving in the first half-hour. Luis Suarez opened the scoring with a goal in the 10th minute before doubling his tally six minutes later. Daniel Agger headed in the third.