Benitez looks to Terry for a lift
Rafael Benitez thinks John Terry's return to action could give Chelsea the steel they have been lacking in recent weeks.
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26. John Terry
Chelsea's grip on a Champions League qualification place has loosened of late thanks to a woeful run of home form which has seen the club win just one league game at Stamford Bridge since Benitez took charge in November.
It would be wrong to suggest that Terry's absence has been the sole reason for the Blues' decline - Fernando Torres' poor form and the effect of a hostile home crowd have been key factors too - but there is no doubt that the Londoners have severely missed the leadership and defensive qualities of their skipper.
Southampton, who sacked their manager Nigel Adkins on Friday, breached the Chelsea defence twice on Wednesday to come away with a draw while Branislav Ivanovic gifted Swansea a win in the Capital One Cup semi-final seven days earlier with two ghastly errors.
Terry has been training for two weeks as he attempts to recover from knee ligament damage, and for Benitez, the 32-year-old's return can not come soon enough.
"We have some good players. Some of them show more character," Benitez said when asked about Terry's comeback.
"We have a group of players with quality and sometimes we miss these things.
"He's one of the strong characters we have. To have people with this mentality can help.
"Hopefully he will be fine. We will see a positive influence, hopefully, for the rest of the season in the team."
Terry, who came off the bench at Stoke last weekend, will be determined to put in a much better performance than he did against Arsenal last year when he slipped to allow Robin van Persie to score Arsenal's fourth in a stunning 5-3 comeback win for the Gunners.
That defeat put a severe dent in the Blues' title hopes, and Andre Villas-Boas - the man brought in to rebuild the squad - was on his way a few months later.
Rafael Benitez is now carrying on what Villas-Boas started, although he is doing it in the guise of 'interim manager'.
With the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, Chelsea are blessed with some fine attacking options, but Benitez has stressed that he, or whoever replaces him at the end of the season, is in charge of a squad that is very much work in progress.
"This is a time of transition," Benitez said.
"We have players with experience who have to help the new players.
"And the new players have to realise what the Premier League means and what it means to be playing at Chelsea, competing for trophies here."
Regardless of what he says, Benitez appears destined to fail in his bid to get Chelsea's fans on his side.
Some Blues fans are boycotting the club until the Spaniard has left and only 38,484 turned up to watch their team against Southampton on Wednesday night.
Stamford Bridge used to be an impenetrable fortress - Benitez only won there once as Liverpool boss in six years - but the Spaniard has registered just one victory at the club's west London home.
He insists that can change, however.
"It was always tough, always difficult when I went to Stamford Bridge (as Liverpool boss)," said Benitez, whose only home victory in the league was an 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa on December 23.
"We will try to make it the same. It was (like that) for Aston Villa.
"After that everyone was scared."
How Benitez must crave for the stability his opposite number Arsene Wenger enjoys.
Wenger has not won a trophy in seven and a half years, but there seems little credible talk of the Frenchman being ousted from his position at Arsenal.
Benitez is a big admirer of Wenger and does not feel he needs any sympathy for the Gunners' trophyless run.
"He's a great manager doing a great job," Benitez said.
"He'll do a great job, hopefully, for another four years. Not this weekend, though.
"Football has changed, but he has to keep doing things his way even if it's too difficult. I don't feel 'sorry' for him because he's really good and is doing really well."