BENITEZ: LOTS OF POSITIVES
It's just over two months since Rafael Benitez took charge of Chelsea, and he is pleased with the way his squad are progressing ahead of tonight's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Swansea City.
The Spaniard was handed the reins at a difficult time; only a day after the Champions League defeat at Juventus, a result which went a long way to sealing our fate in the competition, and with injuries to key players, and while it would be wrong to suggest his time in charge hasn't been without its disappointments, he praised the collective effort of the group.
'The players are working hard, and it's my job to put them in a position to make sure they keep working hard,' he explained. 'You can see their motivation in every game; they are doing well, so there are a lot of positives.
'We are scoring more goals, conceding less, and even in the games we have lost we have done well. The team are in a transitional period because we have some new players, and some players who are coming towards the end of their contracts, so it's a team which is growing and improving.'
As a club, we have grown accustomed to challenging for the major trophies and succeeding in big matches in recent years, and Benitez, is eager for his players to maintain the winning habit.
'As a manager at a top side who want to win trophies, we have to do better,' he said. 'The priority of the club is to be in the top four and also to win trophies at the same time.
'Could we do it a little bit better? Yes. Could we have won the games we lost? Yes. The team is progressing, it's the right way, and for a lot of people - including the players - we are going in the right direction.
'The majority of managers have a pre-season. Other managers, who came in later, come in when the Champions League is already in place, and with a different squad. With the players we have, good players who still need to settle down, we are doing what we need to do.'
Tonight's game against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium, in which we trail 2-0 from the first leg, represents an opportunity to lay down a marker for the remainder of the campaign.
The home side will start the match as favourites given their advantage, but Benitez is hopeful that will play into our hands.
He also reserved a word of praise for Branislav Ivanovic, whose mistakes in the game at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago led to Swansea's goals.
'The players are professionals,' said the Blues boss. 'They are winners and they know we need to do our best because we deserved more from the first game.
'We have to perform in every game because we are a top side. My job is to bring the best from this team, but Swansea will be delighted if they get to the final so they have some pressure as well.
'Ivanovic wants to play in every game. He played the game immediately after, but I told him I don't have any issues with players when they try their best.
'He doesn't have anything to prove as he's proving it every week, but if he scores the winning goal I'm sure he'll be happy.'