Benitez: Nigerian contingent can boost morale
Soccer:Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez hopes Nigeria’s returning heroes Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel can breathe fresh enthusiasm into his side as the Blues seek to advance in the FA Cup and Europa League in the next week.
The pair won the African Nations Cup with the Super Eagles and return to bolster the ranks at Chelsea, who claimed back-to-back wins for the first time since December with victories over Wigan and Sparta Prague and are seeking a third successive win in the FA Cup fourth-round replay with Brentford at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
“I think they will come back with more confidence, more belief and it has to be good for the team,” Benitez said. “It’s important to have happy and confident players around, so it’s good for the team that they won and they’ve brought that confidence and belief back with them. Both of them progressed as individuals through the tournament.
“Obi has more experience and you could expect good performances from him, but Victor was coming through and I could see he has been growing and improving. I am really pleased for both of them, and to be so influential is a great achievement for Victor.”
Moses last featured for Chelsea on January 5th against Southampton and Mikel on St Stephen's Day against Norwich, but both are in line to return in tomorrow’s clash with npower League One Brentford.
Also available for the west London derby are David Luiz and Demba Ba, who missed the Sparta clash through suspension and being ineligible respectively.
John Terry is in line to return to the starting line-up for just a third start under Benitez following a knee injury, while Ashley Cole, who like Terry was an unused substitute on Thursday, could also start.
Benitez is happy with increased numbers to choose from.
“We have now more options that we didn’t have before,” he added. “It’s a great advantage if you want to give minutes to players, play with fresh legs. It can help to keep a higher tempo during the game.”
Benitez was satisfied with the win in Prague, secured by Oscar’s late goal, despite an unconvincing all round display, and hopes his side approach the Brentford clash with belief before Thursday’s return leg with Sparta at Stamford Bridge.
Benitez said: “We needed to win. We had to score an away goal. We’ll have a better option for the second leg. The team has won two games in a row and has to be much better now in terms of how to approach the game (with Brentford), with confidence. Brentford will try to be compact and counter-attack, and we are favourites and will try to do a professional job.
“From the first minute we have to push and push and try to win. It will be different from Thursday, where we played away against a team that liked to run between and behind defenders. Against Brentford we have to sustain attacks and get on top of them.”