BENITEZ: GREAT LEADER
Rafael Benitez hasn't ruled out the possibility of John Terry making his first start since November during today's FA Cup clash at Brentford, and the Blues manager has praised the captain's qualities as he edges closer to a full return.
Terry was a late substitute during the 4-0 win at Stoke City a fortnight ago, his first involvement since being carried off in the 1-1 home draw against Liverpool, and if he is involved later today, Benitez will be delighted to call on his services.
'He hasn't been available until the last few weeks,' said Benitez. 'A winning mentality isn't just about character; he's a great player, a great leader and for us he's really important.
'He's a key player for us, and he can be a key player between now and the end of the season. In training on Friday we were doing patterns of play at the end of the session, which he was involved in, and he was very good.
'He can use both feet, he's quick on the ball and he has good vision. He's very clever and knows what it's all about. We need to see him out on the pitch and start analysing how we want to do things.'
The Spaniard also acknowledged that when he was in charge of Liverpool, nullifying the threat of Terry, particularly from set pieces, was one of his main priorities.
'When we were doing zonal marking, in my first year, we went man-to-man on him, but nobody noticed because the English press don't talk about tactics,' he explained.
'In this case, playing against a fantastic Chelsea team, we put [Salif] Diao on Terry because he was scoring goals all the time.
'We knew that Terry was a key player and he could score goals, he's been doing it every year, while he's also strong in defence.'
With a broad knowledge of the game, and a fantastic all-round attitude, Benitez believes the skipper could one day become a top manager.
'I've worked with big-name players in the past and they haven't understood the game in the way that he does,' said Benitez
'The way that he treats the young players and takes care of them is very positive, and it's a good quality for a manager to have.'
The manager is well aware of the importance of today's game at Griffin Park, and the need to bounce back from Wednesday's disappointment in Swansea, but with key players unavailable due to a combination of injuries and the Africa Cup of Nations, and a game to contend with every three days, he is concerned the schedule is beginning to take its toll.
'What we have at this moment, and the amount of games we need to play, isn't the same as a team in the middle of the table who only play 42 games,' he said.
'When you play in a top side you have to play 60 matches or more, and if you have been successful, like Chelsea, you have to play even more, so that's what people need to understand.
'Now we have another game, and the good thing is that we've had an extra day to prepare. In terms of the fitness of the players, the problem is that Reading are waiting three days later, and then Newcastle three days after that.
'We then have an international break, with players flying off all over the place, and then we have to play against Wigan Athletic, so it's not easy. If we have two more players we can manage in a better way.
'When we have a full squad, and we are free from injuries, we can compete with anyone.'