The interim Blues boss has had a tricky few weeks since being installed at Stamford Bridge, to say the least. Unpopular with sections of the support before he even took the job, Benitez’s stock fell further when Chelsea failed to win in his first three games in charge.
Even a 6-1 win over Nordsjaelland could not lift the gloom as Chelsea left the Champions League at the first hurdle. Although that could not be blamed on Benitez, it seemed symptomatic of his luck so far.
However Saturday’s win at Sunderland was a welcome shot in the arm, and with Fernando Torres back in the goals, Benitez will be hoping to carry some momentum into the tournament in Japan.
Chelsea will be firm favourites to get the better of Monterrey, the reigning CONCACAF Champions League holders, in Thursday’s semi-final in Yokohama (kick-off 10.30am GMT). If they do, they will face the winners of the other semi-final, between Al-Ahly and Corinthians.
The Brazilian side feature Paulinho, rumoured to be a target for Chelsea in the January transfer window.
John Terry and Daniel Sturridge were left behind in London to help recover from their knee and hamstring injuries respectively.
Oriol Romeu has been ruled for six months with a knee injury, but Frank Lampard could make his first start for two months after recovering from a calf problem.
According to quotes in the media, David Luiz would happily bolster the midfield, but John Obi Mikel is available as his three-match ban does not apply in this tournament.