Benitez: Premier League is pipe dream
By Simon Duffy
Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez said this season's Premier League title is 'a long, long way' away for the west London club despite the recent upturn in form.
Having turned the club's fortunes around somewhat since taking over from Roberto Di Matteo in November, Benitez implied that the club's hierarchy accepts that the recent turnover of squad members has placed limitations on this season's expectations which must be a huge relief as Blues owner Roman Abramovich has the itchiest trigger finger in all of football.
Turning his attentions to Wednesday's Capital One Cup semi-final first leg with Swansea, Benitez admitted the club's most realistic hope of silverware this season lies with the cup competitions where they are currently the reigning holders of the FA Cup after defeating Liverpoool last year at Wembley.
"This year, you can see, is a year of transition," the Spaniard told reporters. "There were 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. When you have a good squad you can manage players, you can keep a good team on the pitch, as has been the case at Chelsea in the last few years.
"I don't need to convince anyone (at the club that this is the case).
"You have experience, you can analyse the squad and you can see that new players have come in, some players are getting older, so it's normal. We have enough intelligence to analyse this.
"If the players are focused and if you have quality, it's always easier and you can progress in the cups.
"In the league it's a long, long way and sometimes when you're not close to your target, which is winning the title, then maybe it is easy for the players to lose focus. Maybe that's the reason why.
"We have a good team, young players, they need some experience in the Premier League, and they are carrying on and doing well. And the players with more experience have to help them.
"Now we have to manage the squad, and sometimes you try to bring the best players for these competitions.
"Then sometimes you make a mistake or people say there is a mistake, when, just sometimes, the other team are better than you. Our approach is one game at a time, to try to pick up points every game. We will try to carry on with this mentality."
It is a mentality that has served Benitez well over the course of his managerial career. Whether its enough to secure him the Stamford Bridge job on a full time basis, only time will tell.