Benitez confident of top-four spot
Rafa Benitez has re-asserted his full confidence that Chelsea will finish in the Champions League places despite recent results, and also hinted that managing the Blues is a greater challenge than his previous role at Liverpool.
Chelsea have only won two of their last three league games and squandered leads in two of them - against Southampton and Reading - but the Spaniard feels they are still on course for the main objective that Roman Abramovich has set.
"I am confident we have enough quality and enough options to win more games in a row and be top four.
"We never play to be in the top four, we play to win every game. The top four is nearly guaranteed. We will try for top two or higher."
For reasons of diplomacy and morale, though, the Chelsea manager refused to "guarantee" a top-four finish, as he once did in his time at Liverpool.
"If you are the manager and say you cannot guarantee the top four, the players will think 'he has no confidence in us', but I have confidence we can do it. We are a good team with good players and we have good players coming back. I have a lot of confidence in this team."
More surprisingly, Benitez argued that it isn't that much of a difference between finishing third and fourth because, due to seedings, Premier League sides generally get through in the Champions League qualifiers.
"If you are in the top four, normally with the power and quality of the team, it is normally guaranteed [to qualify for the group stages].
Benitez also intimated that the challenge at Chelsea is greater than at Liverpool. Although the Spaniard refused to be drawn on direct comparisons between the clubs other than to say there is a "massive difference", he did speak at length about how the greater time afforded him at Anfield - in terms of both expectation and preparation - eased the task.
"Top sides are to sides, you put your own pressure, and I want to win every game," he explained.
"At Liverpool I had a pre-season so you have time to get your message across, and you are not playing twice a week. Playing 21 games, it is quite difficult to work with them. When you work with them in pre-season, it does not matter if you are tired because you don't have competitive games.
"We are doing a lot of things to control games. You need time and you need training sessions. Sometimes in games you cannot do things because you have not worked on them. The way is to practice and do things in training."