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Bullish Benitez believes Blues can claim title

Date

Henry Winter, Yokohama.

Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez.

Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez. Photo: Reuters

RAFA Benitez will take the microphone on the flight back from Japan and tell his Chelsea players that they can win the English Premier League. If the Blues are crowned champions of the world by overcoming Corinthians on Sunday in the Club World Cup, Benitez believes their chances of making up the 10-point deficit on the leader, Manchester United, will be even easier. One has to admire his confidence.

Encountered at Chelsea's hotel here, Benitez was in bullish mood, insisting that he can organise Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and company into genuine title challengers, emphasising that he also has the experience of overturning opponents' leads.

''At Valencia we were eight points behind Real Madrid in January [2004] and were in the hotel, in a corridor, and I was talking with Ayala, Canizares and Pellegrino, maybe Aimar, and I told them we would win the league,'' Benitez said. ''They thought I was crazy. But I remember Canizares saying after we'd finished eight points ahead of Real that 'Rafa had told us we would in January'. The way we trained was key.''

Benitez's core style was - and is - about repetition, about players learning positional discipline. Chelsea's interim first-team coach has already conducted a session out here in specific preparation for Leeds United in a high-octane League Cup tie on Wednesday. ''With the way we train here, I have confidence we will be better and better every single week.'' So much better that the title is possible, Benitez claimed.

''When I talk to players here, I can see in their faces that they have the belief. If we win here and we play like we played against Monterrey [in the semi-final of the Club World Cup], with the quality we have going forward and the right balance in defence, the team can win three or four games in a row easily and the confidence can be so high.''

He was looking far afield, and not simply from the sumptuous vantage-point of the 70th floor of Chelsea's hotel. Benitez was sitting in the team's meal room, a five-star eyrie so high up that your ears popped as the lift tore towards the skies. He was chatty, occasionally feisty, delivering gentle punches to this observer's shoulder and moving water bottles and a salt pot around the table as he explained tactical tweaks to Chelsea's back line.

Benitez is on a charm offensive, partly to win friends for a club battered with image issues but also because he wants to be mentioned in glowing terms when major jobs become available.

Benitez is also the man who does not boast many friends among his managerial peers in England, who had such a reputation for not celebrating golden moments that his captain in Istanbul, Steven Gerrard, told him to have a beer and unwind at Liverpool's 2005 Champions League victory party. Benitez famously greeted a jubilant Gerrard with a question about his first-half marking.

So it was important to look beyond the smile, to understand that this is a man with a point to prove to Alex Ferguson, to Jose Mourinho, to some former players and the majority of a quizzical media. Benitez is the outstanding outsider and the charm on the surface could not conceal a certain chippiness.

A two-time winner of La Liga with unfashionable Valencia, Benitez craved proper recognition. ''Look at the [his] CV,'' he demanded, ''and then analyse the CVs of other managers who people think are amazing in England and you think: 'What is going on here?' Analyse it. I have the confidence in myself for years.

''When I was 11 I was playing football in Madrid, winning championships between schools in Madrid, and I was captain. I was taking notes at 13, analysing football.

''I was at the Real Madrid academy and got injured, but I'd been playing with the likes of Vicente Del Bosque and I wasn't scared of any of them.

''My degree is in physical education … you have to explain, repeat, teach. Against Monterrey, we had a penetrating pass for Ashley Cole on the left in the second half. John Obi Mikel and Cesar Azpilicueta had another one on the other side. That was part of our training.''

For all the Chelsea fans' antipathy towards a former Liverpool manager, Benitez is having an impact on their club. ''I could be working in Spain, Italy or China, earning massive money at a club in the middle of the table for 10 years but I want to win trophies.''

And bury ghosts. Benitez still confronts memories of discomforting events in the 2008-09 season when his Liverpool team chased Ferguson's United but finished four points adrift. He still has not moved on. ''They scored in the last minute against Aston Villa,'' Benitez recalled of Federico Macheda's late winner for United on April 5, 2009.

He has neither forgotten a controversial spot-kick nor forgiven referee Howard Webb for a game-changing incident at Old Trafford 20 days later.

''United were 2-0 down and then they got that penalty,'' reflected Benitez of Michael Carrick's suspect tumble. ''I remember,'' he sighed. How Benitez would love some title nirvana.

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Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

Round 1
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs BRI 3 Stats
Fri, 09 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs VIC 0 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs PER 2 Stats
SYD 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs NEW 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 16 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs SYD 1 Stats
VIC 3vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs CCM 1 Stats
PER 1vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 23 OctTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs VIC 0 Stats
Sat, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 3vs BRI 2 Stats
SYD 1vs WSW 0 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs CCM 1 Stats
PER 3vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 30 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2vs NEW 3 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs SYD 3 Stats
BRI 3vs ADE 0 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs PER 0 Stats
Mon, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3vs WEL 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Thu, 05 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs MCY 4 Stats
Fri, 06 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs BRI 0 Stats
Sat, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WEL 1 Stats
Wed, 16 DecTimes shown AEDT
PER 1vs VIC 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 13 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4vs ADE 2 Stats
MCY 0vs WSW 3 Stats
Sat, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs CCM 1 Stats
SYD 2vs VIC 4 Stats
Sun, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs PER 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Thu, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 20 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs WEL 1 Stats
PER 0vs SYD 0 Stats
Sun, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs NEW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Thu, 26 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs WEL 0 Stats
Fri, 27 NovTimes shown AEDT
MCY 5vs PER 1 Stats
Sat, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs BRI 1 Stats
VIC 2vs ADE 1 Stats
Sun, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs WSW 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs MCY 5 Stats
Fri, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2vs VIC 0 Stats
WSW 2vs BRI 1 Stats
Sun, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs PER 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 11 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs WEL 1 Stats
WSW 2vs VIC 0 Stats
PER 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs MCY 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 18 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
Sat, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs SYD 1 Stats
MCY 2vs VIC 1 Stats
PER 2vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs BRI 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 24 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 3vs WEL 0 Stats
SYD 4vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 3vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs WEL 1 Stats
Fri, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
Sat, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs PER 1 Stats
MCY 2vs SYD 2 Stats
Sun, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs VIC 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 08 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 09 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2vs NEW 0 Stats
MCY 3vs WSW 2 Stats
PER 1vs ADE 3 Stats
Sun, 10 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs BRI 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 15 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4vs BRI 0 Stats
Sat, 16 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 3vs CCM 1 Stats
WSW 1vs SYD 2 Stats
PER 2vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 17 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 3vs WEL 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 22 JanTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs ADE 4 Stats
Sat, 23 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs PER 6 Stats
Mon, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs WEL 1 Stats
Tue, 26 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs SYD 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 29 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 4vs MCY 3 Stats
Sat, 30 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs CCM 3 Stats
SYD 1vs BRI 3 Stats
PER 3vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 31 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs NEW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 05 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI 4vs CCM 0 Stats
VIC 1vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs PER 1 Stats
NEW 2vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 12 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs NEW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs PER 17:15Allianz Stadium
MCY vs VIC 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 15:00Central Coast Stadium
WSW vs WEL 17:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 19 FebTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WEL 17:15Hunter Stadium
SYD vs WSW 19:30Allianz Stadium
PER vs BRI 21:40nib Stadium
Sun, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs CCM 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 26 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MCY 17:30Westpac Stadium
WSW vs PER 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 17:15Coopers Stadium
VIC vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs NEW 17:00Central Coast Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WSW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs ADE 17:15Westpac Stadium
MCY vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 17:00Central Coast Stadium
Mon, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
PER vs NEW 20:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs MCY 19:40Coopers Stadium
Sat, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 17:15Allianz Stadium
BRI vs VIC 19:30Suncorp Stadium
PER vs CCM 21:40nib Stadium
Sun, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WSW 17:00Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs BRI 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs SYD 17:15Central Coast Stadium
WSW vs ADE 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs PER 15:00Westpac Stadium
VIC vs NEW 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs WSW 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs PER 17:15Hunter Stadium
BRI vs SYD 19:30Suncorp Stadium
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs CCM 17:00Coopers Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs WEL 19:30AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs VIC 17:15Westpac Stadium
SYD vs ADE 19:30Allianz Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 17:00Suncorp Stadium
PER vs MCY 19:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
MCY vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
CCM vs NEW 17:15Central Coast Stadium
VIC vs BRI 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs WSW 15:00Westpac Stadium
SYD vs PER 17:00Allianz Stadium
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W L +/- Pts
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 18 10 4 10 34
Brisbane Roar FC 18 10 4 9 34
Melbourne City FC 18 8 6 11 28
Melbourne Victory 18 8 6 6 28
Sydney FC 18 7 4 5 28
Adelaide United 18 7 5 3 27
Perth Glory 18 6 8 -1 22
Newcastle Jets 18 5 9 -12 19
View all
 

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