BENITEZ: ONE IN, TWO OUT
Rafael Benitez will be hopeful of inspiring his Chelsea side to an important three points when we face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, before we jet off to Japan for the FIFA World Club Cup.
John Terry, who hasn't featured since being stretchered off in the home draw against Liverpool, will remain in England in a bid to regain full fitness, but the manager is able to call on the services of another key player.
On squad news
Having been without Terry, Frank Lampard and Daniel Sturridge in recent weeks, Benitez is delighted to be able to welcome back one of the trio for tomorrow's game, and he hopes the other two will be back sooner rather than later.
'Terry will not fly to Japan because the doctor has warned of an inflammation and said that flying is not the best idea, so he will stay here and obviously miss the Sunderland game as well,' said Benitez.
'The first conversation I had with him, he was quite excited because it's a new competition and a great opportunity.
'But after we spoke with the doctor it was decided that he would stay here. He wanted to go, he wanted to help, but it's better that he stays here.
'He's training very hard with the physios, but the knee is a special case, we'll have to see what happens.'
On a more positive note, meanwhile, Benitez stated that Lampard will be part of the squad for tomorrow's game having not played since our away defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in October.
'Lampard has been training today, he's in the squad for Sunderland and if everything is fine he will come to Japan,' explained Benitez. 'At least we have one important player back because we need character and experience.
'If you have to play him because something's wrong, he can make a difference. If you play him when everything is fine, he can also have an impact, so all of these players with quality and experience are welcome.
'He is a quality player; he scores goals, understands the game and is a good passer of the ball.'
Tomorrow's game comes too soon for Sturridge, but there is still a possibility he could fly out to Japan and join up with the rest of the squad.
'Sturridge has been training but it's too early for him, so he will not travel to Sunderland,' said the Spaniard. 'We will see if he can fly with us to Japan at a later date.'
On facing Sunderland
Tomorrow's game is a must-win given our recent league form, particularly if we are to stand any chance of applying pressure on the two Manchester clubs, who face each other on Sunday.
Our last victory in the league came against Tottenham Hotspur back in October, and Benitez is well aware of the need to put that right.
'We have to beat Sunderland, and if we can we'll be closer to at least one of the leaders,' he explained. 'My job is to concentrate on my team and if we can be closer sooner rather than later that would be good. We have a chance as long as we start winning games.
'The last game was very good, you can talk about the level of the other team but it was the Champions League and the level and intensity was fantastic. I watched it again and I was very pleased with the performance. Even at 75 minutes and 85 minutes we were still pushing.'
Benitez, though, while disappointed to lose the Nigerian, is now eager to put the whole episode behind us.
'We were expecting something similar, he has accepted the charge and now we need to move forward,' said the Blues boss.
'It's a bit of a problem for us, but we were more or less aware that this could happen.'