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Benitez looking to tighten up

Rafael Benitez has told Chelsea they cannot afford any more lapses in concentration against Arsenal.

Last Updated: 19/01/13 at 13:13 Post Comment   

Rafael Benitez: Wants defending as a unit

Rafael Benitez: Wants defending as a unit

Rafael Benitez has told Chelsea they cannot afford any more lapses in concentration at the back if they are to record a much-needed win over Arsenal on Sunday.

Should Chelsea's woeful home form continue, they could end up missing out on Champions League football for the first time since Roman Abramovich took over the club 10 years ago.

Benitez may have chalked up six away wins since he took charge in November, but his team have tasted victory in the Barclays Premier League on just one occasion in the seven weeks he has been at the helm.

Chelsea suffered their latest bout of home sickness on Wednesday when Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon breached the home defence, allowing Southampton to come from two goals down and claim a 2-2 draw.

Seven days earlier it was Branislav Ivanovic who was at fault, the Serbian gifting Swansea a 2-0 victory after two sloppy passes.

Although Arsenal have under-performed this season, on their day they are one of the most devastating teams in the league so Benitez knows if Chelsea take the lead on Sunday they cannot afford to let it slip.

"The team are scoring a lot of goals, as we expect them to, but we have to manage this advantage in a better way," the Chelsea interim boss said.

"We have to be more clinical. We have to defend as a unit, as a team, be more compact and not give them any hope they can score."

Arsenal put in one of the most memorable performances of last season at Stamford Bridge, coming from behind to register a 5-3 victory thanks to a superb hat-trick from Robin van Persie.

Arsene Wenger can no longer rely on the Dutchman's goalscoring talents, of course, but with Jack Wilshere back in the side, and the addition of midfield marvel Santi Cazorla, the Gunners are still more than capable of claiming victory at Stamford Bridge.

Benitez would be forgiven for wishing his team were up against weaker opposition, but he is relishing the chance to bounce back from the Southampton draw and extend the eight-point lead they have over their neighbours.

He said: "It's always important when you have a draw at home to have a big challenge ahead of you.

"To have Arsenal is a very good thing for me and the players.

"They are a rival who are close to us. We have to use that as a positive.

"They are close (in the league) and if we win there'll be a big difference."

Benitez will wait until this evening before deciding whether to give John Terry his first start since he suffered knee ligament damage against Liverpool in November.

The Blues boss must also decide whether he sticks with Demba Ba, who has scored three goals in three starts since his move from Newcastle, or give Fernando Torres yet another chance to prove his doubters wrong.

Chelsea were linked with several strikers on the continent this month, but opted instead to activate the £7.5million release clause in Ba's contract at Newcastle and Benitez thinks the decision has proven to be a wise one.

The former Valencia boss added: "The idea was to sign a player who knew the Premier League well and could settle in quickly. That was the point. He's doing a great job for us."

Ba has so far not started two games a week for Chelsea, sparking fears the Senegalese's knee injury could halt his progress at Stamford Bridge.

Benitez played down those fears on Friday, however, and hinted that he could start both his forwards on Sunday.

"When we signed him, we knew there was a special situation," Benitez said.

"We also knew he could start scoring goals sooner rather than later and he has done so already.

"If you play two strikers, you have to change the shape of the team.

"It depends on the movement of the strikers, the understanding of the game. Ba has played as a winger and a second striker, as has Torres.

"If Demba Ba is clever enough playing behind Torres, it's another option. We have these options."


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