The Blues have lost ground on Manchester United and Manchester City after a disappointing recent run but the top two face each other this weekend and Benitez is desperate to get back in the title race.
Chelsea currently trail the leaders by ten points and Benitez does not want a slip-up against the Black Cats.
"My thoughts are clear - we have to win against Sunderland and we can be closer to at least one of them," he said.
"If we can be closer sooner rather than later, much better. Obviously we'll have our chances if we start winning games."
Thrashing Nordsjaelland 6-1 in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday gave Benitez his first victory in four matches as Chelsea's interim manager.
"The last game was really good. We can talk about the level of the other team, but it was the Champions League," he said.
"The intensity was fantastic and I was really pleased with the performance of the players. At 75 minutes we were still pushing and pushing.
"It was the same at 86 minutes, so I think they showed the character they have.
"Fernando Torres was working very hard and the team was better attacking. He scored two more goals and hopefully there will be more."
Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visit Sky Sports' Festive Calendar