BENITEZ: RIGHT DIRECTION
As he prepares for the league visit to Stoke, Rafael Benitez reports spirits remain high among the squad despite the first-leg setback against Swansea.
There is plenty of work now to do in the cup semi-final following Wednesday's 2-0 defeat at home but the players head to the Potteries on the back of five wins from the last five away games, and there has been some good news regarding the fitness of two important players.
John Terry and Petr Cech both took part in training on Friday. Terry suffered no adverse reaction to the 45 minutes he played for the Under-21s on Thursday night and Benitez was able to report that after nine weeks out, the player will travel with the squad for the Stoke game, although he will not be considered for a place in the starting line-up at the Britannia Stadium.
'It is always important to have your captain and someone who has character, and Terry is another option when we are without too many players in his position.
'We thought his recovery would be less time but with the knee you never know and at the end he is fine. Hopefully it will be fine until the end of the season.
'Petr Cech has been training and maybe he will travel. We will have to check him but at the moment it is an option and there is a chance he will play.'
Cech injured a thigh muscle at Everton on 30 December. Only Oriol Romeu is ruled out of Saturday's game.
On facing Stoke and the team selection against Swansea…
Benitez revealed some factors that affected his team choice for the midweek game against Swansea. Demba Ba had felt a hamstring niggle in the training session before so could not be used for the full match. Fernando Torres therefore had to start despite suffering from a stomach bug.
'I couldn't say this before the game because I can't explain our problems to the other managers,' said Benitez, 'so you have a professional trying to do his best in a difficult situation, taking responsibility and I was really pleased with Fernando because he was trying to play despite the problems.
'Now he is much better and today they were both training.
'I would like to see all my players praised every day in the media but you have to accept that when you are not doing as well as everyone is expecting then you could be criticised,' the manager added.
'But Torres has been working as a professional and he was playing for the team, and when he starts scoring goals again it will be easier and the fans they will appreciate this.
'Always Chelsea is trying to win every game we know it is a tough game against Stoke. Tony Pulis is doing a great job and they don't lose many games but we are approaching the game thinking to try to win.'
On belief remaining strong…
Despite the home defeats against QPR and Swansea, Benitez is clear progress is being made.
'We have been here seven weeks and the team is scoring more goals, conceding less, playing nice football and even against Swansea we had very clear chances but we conceded two goals and lost.
'Even in the games we lost we could have won these games because we had a lot of chances, so it is a question of being patient and carrying on doing things. I can guarantee 100 per cent that everyone here is pushing and trying to do their best and believe we can carry on improving. The players are happy and the staff are doing a great job supporting them. We are going in the right direction but still in a top side you expect to win every game and sometimes you can't.
'When the team are doing well the fans enjoy it and it is easier. Losing at home to QPR was a tough game because we were doing so well and everybody expected that we would be closer to the top to the table, but we lost a game we deserved to win.
'QPR changed a little bit the mood, and then the other day because it was the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, but the team was doing really well.'