CAHILL: BUSY BUILDING
Gary Cahill maintains there are positives to be taken from Chelsea's midweek Champions League win, and insists the club will go into the Europa League intending to win it.
Cahill scored a header in the midweek 6-1 thrashing of Nordsjaelland, and despite the inevitable disappointment of being eliminated from Europe's most revered club competition, the Sheffield-born centre-back feels there has been a boost to confidence.
'It's nice first and foremost to get a convincing win; it's been a long time coming,' he says.
'Fernando [Torres] is back looking sharp, taking chances in front of goal which is pleasing; just the end result - that we've gone out - has put a big dampener on it, but the performance was great.
'It's the same group of players that started this season beating teams week in week out, scoring a lot of goals and keeping clean sheets - so there's no reason why we can't get back to that, but we were hoping it would come sooner than it has. The last few weeks we were waiting for that win.'
Chelsea now swap Champions League football for our first run-out in the Europa League, and with Thursday-night football looming, Cahill recalls his own experiences in the competition.
'I played in it the first year when I went to Bolton. At the time we were struggling, so we mixed the team up and we didn't really have a good crack at it. We got to the last 16.'
The UEFA Cup, as it was still called when Cahill played in the competition in 2008, paired Bolton with Atletico Madrid for whom Sergio Aguero was sent off at the Reebok in the first leg, with the Spaniards eventually going out 1-0 on aggregate. However they couldn't get past Sporting Lisbon in the next round, losing 2-1.
He quashes any suggestion Chelsea will not take it as seriously as the Champions League, and any thoughts this week's elimination has somehow soured memories of our victorious final in May.
'We go into games to win them and I'm sure it'll be no different in the Europa League.
'And I don't think you can ever spoil that night. Times like that don't come around in football very often. What we achieved will always stick in everyone's memory.'
Wednesday night's win, the first in seven matches, comes at the start of an intense period of games for Cahill and Chelsea, including a trip to Japan to participate in the Club World Cup. The Europa League games in the new year ensure a congested fixture list continues.
'I've never been involved in so many games,' says the 6ft 3in defender.
'It's crazy really, the amount of games we're playing in the space of a month. The recovery time and everything else that goes with it is tough, I'm not going to lie, but the Club World Cup is going to be a good competition for us. Obviously the league's not been going great for us of late, so hopefully when we go over there it gives us a bit of a distraction from that and then we'll come back flying.'
Cahill also speaks about the impact the schedule has on Rafael Benitez's work on the training pitch.
'It's hard for anyone to come in because you've got two days before the each game to put across your ideas and show the players what you're asking of them. One of those days is normally a recovery day because you've played the day before.
'You've seen that we're becoming, over the last four games, more organised, and I think over time we'll get the ideas and things will go okay.'
'We've got a massive game on Saturday [against Sunderland] that we need to take full points from. We definitely need to go on a run like we did at the start of the season.'