Despite a disappointing end to their European Champions League defence last week, Chelsea’s newly-hired manager Rafael Benitez denies carrying undue pressure into Thursday’s Club World Cup semi-final against Mexican club Monterrey.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s first training session in Japan following their 3-1 victory over Sunderland in the English Premier League on Saturday, Benitez said cryptically “with the economic crisis around the world everybody is under pressure.”
The Spaniard, who became Chelsea’s eighth manager in nine and a half years after replacing Roberto Di Matteo last month, added, “I have stress, but we will do our best to win the next game and the game after that.”
Chelsea, who arrived in Japan on Sunday, are seeded into the semi-finals along with South American champion Corinthians of Brazil. Chelsea will meet CONCACAF champion Monterrey in Yokohama. The Mexican side defeated Asian Champions League winner Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea 3-1 in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
Corinthians play Al-Ahly in Toyota on Wednesday after the Egyptian club eliminated J-League winner Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 in Sunday’s other quarter-final.
The 52-year-old Benitez, who is managing a team at the Club World Cup for the third time after leading Liverpool (2005) and Inter Milan (2010), said he takes the tournament seriously.
“This is a massive competition,” he said.
“We hope to do well and will try our best to win it. We try to win every trophy we can. We have played better the past two games and hope to continue this.”
Goalkeeper Petr Cech seconded his manager’s view on the importance of the Club World Cup, which features the champions from FIFA’s six confederations, plus a team from the host nation.
“It means a lot for every player to be in this tournament,” Cech said.
“We have to win the Champions League to be in it.”
Cech said he also welcomed the introduction of goal-line technology – which FIFA is employing for the first time – at the Club World Cup.
“I’m happy with the decision for this technology,” said Cech.
“I have been saying for 10 years that football needed something like this. You can see over the years that the results of competitions could have been different. So I’m very happy about this.”
When asked about the recent improvement in play by striker Fernando Torres, who has scored four goals in the past two games, Benitez credited his other players for their contributions to Torres’ success.
“Fernando has been in a good position because the team is creating more chances,” he said.
“The teammates are the most important factor in this.”
While Chelsea are considered the tournament favourites, Cech said Monterrey will benefit from their earlier arrival in Japan.
“We are seeded into the semi-finals, so we can assume the position of favourites and will do our best to prove it on the pitch,” he said.
“Monterrey has a slight advantage because they are already here and acclimated.”
“They had a good game yesterday, so we have to do our best to acclimate ourselves and prepare for Thursday.”