Rafael Benítez has conceded this is a season of transition at Chelsea and suggested it has been acknowledged as such by the club's notoriously demanding hierarchy, with the reshaping of the European champions' squad set to continue this week.
Discussions are continuing with Metalist Kharkiv to secure the arrival of the Brazilian midfielder Taison Freda. The Ukrainian club are now exerting pressure on Chelsea to raise their bid for the 24-year-old to around £11m, which they would deem acceptable. Personal terms are already agreed with the former Internacional midfielder, who has been advised he will be able to secure a work permit to play in England despite being uncapped by his country.
If a fee can be agreed, Taison would become Chelsea's second addition of the month after Demba Ba, with one more defensively minded midfielder – Paulinho at Corinthians remains a target – potentially to arrive before the end of the month. Yet while Champions League qualification will always be considered the bare minimum requirement at the club, Benítez says the continued tweaking and rejuvenation of the Stamford Bridge club's squad since the summer have left the team as something of a work in progress.
"The team is a good team," said the interim first-team manager. "When you have a good squad, you can manage players and you can keep a good team on the pitch, as has been the case at Chelsea in the last few years. This year you can see is a year of transition, [with] some new players coming in, so it's different. Before at Chelsea you had a lot of big names – then you could manage a lot of different players. Still, you can see that the team are very strong."
Asked if he had been forced to persuade the owner and board to adopt a sense of realism over the team's objectives, Benítez added: "I don't need to convince. You have experience, you can analyse the squad and you can see that new players have come in, while some players are getting older, so it's normal. We have enough intelligence to analyse this. It doesn't matter in terms of what we think or what we don't think – it's what we have. We have a good team, with young players, and they need some experience in the Premier League. They are carrying on and doing well and the players with more experience have to help them."
Chelsea's defeat by Queens Park Rangers last week left them fourth and 14 points from Manchester United at the top and the team's best hopes of trophies realistically are the Europa League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup, in which they play Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday in the first leg of their semi-final. Fernando Torres, who sat out Saturday's thrashing of Southampton at St Mary's, is expected to return for that tie though Victor Moses has now joined Mikel John Obi in departing for Nigeria's training camp in Portugal ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Yossi Benayoun has returned to the club from a loan spell at West Ham United that yielded only six appearances but the 32-year-old Israeli, who is currently struggling with a knee injury and has entered the final six months of his contract, will be available for transfer once he has returned to full fitness.
"Benayoun is injured and he's working with the physios," added Benítez. "We will see what happens. He's not a Florent Malouda [who is not under consideration for the first team having been in dispute with the club since last summer] but the question is how many players we have in these positions, and we have six. So we have to manage the situation."
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