Benitez has faith in Shakhtar
Soccer:Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez believes Shakhtar Donetsk can beat Juventus tomorrow and open an escape route for his side to reach the last 16 of the Champions League. The defending champions must beat Danish side Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge in their final Group E match and hope Juventus lose in Ukraine if they are to avoid becoming the first holders to exit at the group stage.
A draw in Ukraine would send Chelsea out but Benitez, still looking for a win three games after replacing Roberto Di Matteo, said he expected already qualified Shakhtar to go for victory.
"We don't need a miracle," Benitez, who masterminded Liverpool's miraculous Champions League final victory against Milan in 2005 from a 3-0 halftime deficit, told reporters. "We just have to do our job. I'm convinced that Shakhtar can beat Juventus. The only thing we can do is win our game but I have confidence that Shakhtar will do well.
"They have players that want to be seen around the world. They will want to win and I'm sure they will try."
Benitez's rocky start, two scoreless draws and Saturday's 3-1 defeat to West Ham, has been hampered by not being able to call on the the experience of club captain John Terry or midfield stalwart Frank Lampard and neither will be ready to face Nordsjaelland, despite both returning to training following knee and calf injuries respectively.
"Lampard has been training for two days with the group but it's too early for tomorrow. JT was training with the physios and it's still too early for this game," Benitez said, although both could be in contention for the weekend trip to Sunderland.
Despite having to dealing with hostility from the home fans following his controversial appointment, Benitez was in a jovial mood at the club's training ground.
"No," he replied when asked if he already felt under pressure. "If you analyse the three games we did a lot of good things. The first two clean sheets was a good point to start. We did concede against West Ham but maybe we deserved to win that more than the others because we were much better in the first half. There are lots of positives."
Benitez, the first manager in the era of club owner Roman Abramovich not to win any of his first three matches, said he would try to utilise his squad in the busy period ahead which includes a trip to the World Club Cup in Japan next week.
"They were playing too many games, a lot of minutes and you can't be fresh playing at that intensity," he said of the midfield trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar who have been less effective of late after a brilliant start to the season. "I can see the quality of these three players, when we are in possession they are very dangerous. It depends on the game...sometimes you need another approach. We have to manage better against strong physical teams."
Mata said the players were unaffected by the negativity surrounding the appoinrment of his fellow Spaniard.
"I'm not deaf, so yeah we are aware of the fans' reaction but they are free to do what they want," he said. "When you change a manager it's because things are not going good. It's not my responsibilty. We have an owner and people who are working to do their best for the club and as a player you just work with the manager...we are with him."
Daniel Sturridge is reportedly not happy at the club, however, and he has today denied he has "demanded" €98,000 (£80,000) a week and a guaranteed role as a striker to leave Chelsea for Liverpool. The Reds are said to be looking to sign the 23-year-old England international next month, having reportedly failed to do so during the last transfer window.
Reports this morning suggested Sturridge would only move if certain conditions were met, but his representatives Octagon released a statement today that read: "Daniel Sturridge does not conduct his business in public. He also does not make demands in any negotiation, with regards to salary or his playing position. Any contract between a club and a player has to be based on mutual agreement."
Sturridge has spent much of his career for both club and country in a wide attacking role and has made no secret of his desire to play more centrally. At present, he and the misfiring Fernando Torres are Chelsea's only recognised centre-forwards. However, Sturridge (hamstring) has been out injured for the past two-and-a-half weeks and did not train with the senior group this morning ahead of the game with Nordsjaelland.