Match 21
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Match 22
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Match 23
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Benitez concerned by Blues' fitness

Newly-appointed Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez believes his squad are at risk of burning out before season's end due to a lack of squad rotation before his tenure commenced.

• Blog: Chelsea need balance

Benitez took over from the sacked Roberto Di Matteo at Stamford Bridge in November and has since seen the team held in two consecutive goalless draws. The former Liverpool boss insists the recent run of form - which has seen them drop seven points behind league-leading Manchester United - comes down to the players' worrying fitness levels.

"If you're not winning and you analyse the players who have played almost every game, there aren't many players here," said Benitez. "There were 19 in the league, and now it's 20 with Marko Marin.

"They'd been playing fewer players than other clubs. I'm not here to criticise, but that's the reality. They'd played so many games, two or three a week and massive games in the Champions League, that the players were getting tired. You can't give them a rest either, because there's no time. I explained what I'd seen, my ideas on things and my explanations.

"You can see the team needs to improve a bit physically but you cannot do that if they play two games every week. There's no recovery time. I'd like to have players for a week and train them properly - they would all gain the benefit - but we have to play games.

"I will have to rest people for some matches, like we did with Juan Mata on Wednesday. It's a risk but we are thinking about the bigger picture. You have to prepare the team for now while thinking in the long run so that at the end, when the trophies are being won, we can benefit."

While resting key players remains part of Benitez's strategy, Chelsea will be hoping to return to winning ways when they take on West Ham at Upton Park on Saturday.

Prior to the clash, Benitez met with the Blues' board and owner Roman Abramovich to determine a course of action for the January transfer window. The Spaniard explained that he needs more time with the current squad before dipping into the transfer market.

"The board were asking me my opinion on what we need," said Benítez. "We spoke about the future but I said it's too soon for me. I'm pleased they're asking me but I want to see the team in a couple more games yet.

"We also analysed the players out on loan, how they are performing. We spoke about Romelu Lukaku and we know he's doing well [at West Brom], and maybe it's better for his development to stay there, playing. We will see. It's too soon for me."


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