A round-up of news and views relating to Chelsea over the past 24 hours.
Chelsea will once again be without Daniel Sturridge, Frank Lampard and John Terry as they head to the Boleyn Ground this weekend. Terry and Lampard are expected back soon, but Benitez is not looking to rush them back into first team action.
West Ham have concerns over the fitness of striker Andy Carroll, who came off in the second half against Manchester United in midweek. Mark Noble returns from his one game suspension, but Yossi Benayoun is unavailable to play against his parent club. Vaz Te, Collison and Diarra are also out with injury problems, but George McCartney may return.
The two team’s managers have a fair bit of history between them, but Sam Allardyce has said he is purely focussed on the match, not his opposite number at Chelsea. Benitez has taken umbrage at the style of football Allardyce has his team play, with words exchanged between the pair when Benitez was at Liverpool, but the West Ham manager doesn’t want to go over old ground:
“It was a long time ago, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and I am just looking forward to the game.”
One man who may be key to proceedings on Saturday is Fernando Torres who scored has six goals in six games against West Ham, including his first for Chelsea. Benitez defended the misfiring striker again today, and reiterated that the rest of team must share the blame for Torres’ lack of goals.
Benitez also defended his decision to drop Juan Mata to the bench for Wednesday’s match, saying he was worried that some of the first team were becoming jaded as a result of playing every game:
“We will try to fix this because you cannot play two, three games in eight days and be fully fit. You lose some pace, some energy.”
The Chelsea manager has also asked for time to assess what transfer targets the club will pursue in January. Michael Emenalo and Roman Abramovich are reportedly keen to start looking at the transfer window, but Benitez wants to see his side play a couple more matches before deciding who to pursue.
Josh McEachran has said he hopes Rafa Benitez does not recall him in January. The midfielder is on loan at Middlesbrough, for whom he has been performing well, and wants to see out the season at the Championship club who have a chance of gaining promotion.
One on loan player who has returned to Chelsea is Michael Essien, who is back in London for treatment on an injury that has kept him from playing at Real Madrid for almost three weeks.
image: © Tom Cuppens