Chelsea FC will attempt to add new silverware to their trophy cabinet over the coming week as they contest the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time – and interim manager Rafael Benítez insists recent disappointments have heightened their hunger.
The Blues will kick off their campaign in Japan on Thursday against Mexico's CF Monterrey, the CONCACAF Champions League holders, in the semi-finals. They will do so with the unwanted tag of being the first European team to arrive at the Club World Cup with their UEFA Champions League ambitions already over, but that changes nothing according to Benítez.
"I don't have a problem with pressure. The future is the next game and the one after that," said the Spaniard, who was sacked by FC Internazionale Milano days after winning this trophy two years ago. "It doesn't matter if we are in the Champions League or not. It's a great opportunity and we're here to win. We won our last two games and we're playing well."
The mood around the camp is certainly upbeat, and having survived an impromptu autograph-signing session in a packed Yokohama coffee shop, goalkeeper Petr Čech spelled out their intent. "We came to win the competition and will try to prove it on the pitch," he said. "You can only play in this competition if you win the Champions League and I've had to wait eight years to get here."
If they negotiate a Monterrey side spearheaded by former Olympique Lyonnais winger César Delgado, Copa Libertadores holders SC Corinthians Paulista await in Sunday's final after the Brazilian team beat Egypt's al-Ahly SC 1-0 on Wednesday with a goal from ex-FC Bayern München and Hamburger SV striker José Paolo Guerrero.
Čech added: "It's a massive competition and everybody here has the same idea as me – to win every trophy." Indeed, this is one of only two major international titles Chelsea have not captured. Succeed, and only the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League is missing.
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