Chelsea get back to Premier League business when they host Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge Sunday. The Blues were in Japan suffering defeat in the Club World Cup last weekend before returning to domestic action in fine style with a 5-1 win at Leeds in midweek.
However they have seen their league position drop to seventh after Saturday’s matches though they would still have a game in hand after Sunday’s game.
Rafa Benitez will now turn his attention to the Premier League in which Chelsea recently went seven games without a win and need to find form if they are to retain their grip on a top-four spot.
Aston Villa showed in their 3-1 victory at Liverpool last Saturday that they are capable of causing an upset and come into the game on their best run of form all season. Paul Lambert’s young side appear to be finding their feet after a shaky start and are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions.
Extending that sequence to seven will prove tough at Stamford Bridge but Benitez will surely be wary as another blow would further undermine him after a stuttering start to life at Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Benitez believes Fernando Torres’ fine recent form is proof that his methods are working at Chelsea.
Torres is finally starting to show his predatory skills, almost two years after joining in a £50m deal, and the 28-year-old appears to have benefited from his reunion with his old Liverpool manager Benitez. Chelsea’s interim boss felt that Torres had lost some of his physical conditioning and the Spanish striker appears to have a new lease of life, weighing in with six goals in five games.
Benitez is delighted with Torres’ transformation and believes that other members of the squad are also reaping rewards from his training regime.
“Two or three things that we are doing for some players are really good,” Benitez said, claiming the sharpness in the majority of his players was now “much better”.
“Fernando is one of the examples. He’s scoring goals and the team is winning and playing well, so he’s really happy, not just because he’s scoring goals but also because the team’s doing well.
“I think that the team has an influence on him because the team is doing well, so the team is playing better, creating more chances. So Fernando is taking more chances.”
Benitez admits he has kept a watchful eye on his players’ workload as the Club World Cup trip and the midweek Capital One Cup quarter-final win at Leeds have preceded Sunday’s home clash with Aston Villa.