BENITEZ WINS APRIL AWARD
Rafael Benitez is the Barclays Premier League Manager of the Month for April.
Chelsea won three of our four league games during the month and drew the other match, keeping us firmly in contention for a top-four finish.
In all competitions there were nine games played. The league matches were a home win against Sunderland, followed by a convincing local derby victory at Fulham and then the 2-2 draw at Liverpool. The final match in April was last weekend's 2-0 defeat of Swansea City.
Benitez was presented with the award at Cobham on Friday with his backroom staff present.
'Always when you can win a trophy it is good and when you win this kind of trophy it means that the staff and everyone involved is doing well,' he said.
'At this stage of the season it is really important when you are playing for something, so if we can carry on winning games I will be really pleased.'
The manager, speaking to the official Chelsea website, gave details of how the team did well last month.
'When you are working with the same group of players every week the understanding between players, management and staff is better,' Benitez said. 'We have a group of players with quality and we have the commitment that we saw.
'As soon as you can win some games in a row you have momentum and confidence and it is easier, so we are not doing too many things in a different way but we are more convinced that we can beat anyone. Overall it is a good period, the team has more confidence and that is the key.
'We were scoring set-piece goals, especially from corners, and we were not conceding many and it is a good balance when you have a team with players who are good in the air. Some things that we are trying to do in training sessions you could see make the difference in the games and we are really pleased with that.'
Benitez paid tribute to his backroom staff for their contribution.
'It is important to understand that a manager can do good things but it depends on the people behind supporting you, so it is important to give credit to everyone.
'We have to give credit to the staff because we have not had too many injuries and I was telling the players after saying well done for making the Europa League final that everybody has to feel they have been part of this, because when you use players for different games and still the team can keep the level it means the squad is important.'
Looking back at April's league matches in order, beginning with Sunderland which was the fourth game in nine days, Chelsea came back from going a goal down to win 2-1.
'We saw character,' says Benitez. 'Always when we use our quality we can create chances but when you are in a bad position we have to show this character and not just the quality. The team is mentally strong and that is good when you are at this stage in the season.'
Fulham had caused problems in recent meetings but we returned from Craven Cottage with a 3-0 win.
'People told me it was a difficult stadium for Chelsea but again we had good confidence and we scored great goals. Everyone was talking about David Luiz's goal but as a team we were strong, working very hard as a unit and using the individuals to make the difference. In the end it was a comfortable win.'
Liverpool's controversial late equaliser in the next league game prevented maximum points in April.
'It was a pity because the last 20 minutes the first half we were in control,' recalls Benitez. 'We didn't start the second half well but the penalty put us ahead again and to concede at the end in the way we did with so much time was strange. We were really disappointed because it was a good period for us and we could have got two points that could be crucial.'
On the 2-0 win over Swansea he says: 'We knew that Swansea is a team that like to play football and the difference from when we played them before and now is we have more confidence.
'The game we played in the Capital One Cup we lost but that was two individual mistakes, not because the team weren't playing well. We had many attempts on goal and a lot of possession so the team was good. Then we saw in the league game we could beat anyone because we are creating chances and we are controlling the games.'