Chelsea dealing with jet lag ahead of semifinal
YOKOHAMA - The Associated Press/Reuters
Spanish midfielder Juan Mata takes part in a training session before Chelsea’s Monterrey game. EPA photoChelsea is struggling to overcome jet lag ahead of today’s Club World Cup semifinal against Monterrey of Mexico.
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez said the team is still adjusting to the time change after arriving Dec. 9 on the long trip from London.
“My players are focusing on trying to sleep,” Benitez said yesterday. “We are trying to adapt to the time, pitch and ball. Everything is new.”
As Champions League winner, Chelsea is seeded into the semifinals along with South American champion Corinthians.
The Brazilian side beat Egypt’s Al-Ahly 1-0 yesterday to advance to the final.
Peru striker Paolo Guerrero twisted superbly to head the winner for the Libertadores Cup holders on the half-hour mark to the delight of the Corinthians fans in Toyota.
“We were expecting a difficult match,” Corinthians coach Tite told reporters. “We had huge responsibility on us to win and mentally we were under a lot of pressure.”
Corinthians, the first team since 1978 to win South America’s premier club competition without losing a game, survived a second-half onslaught from Egypt’s Al-Ahly to advance.
Chelsea will meet CONCACAF champion Monterrey in Yokohama. The Mexican side defeated Asian Champions League winner Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea 3-1 in the quarterfinals.
Room to improve
Benitez, who took over as Chelsea manager last month after Roberto Di Matteo was fired, is still trying to put his imprint on the club.
“We are trying to change the little things to improve,” he said. “We are trying to be more compact. We played better the last two matches and have improved.”
Chelsea beat Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday for the club’s first victory in eight Premier League games.
Benitez, who is managing in his third Club World Cup, made it clear he is not underestimating Monterrey.
“I intend to win,” he said. “I will use the best players in the semifinal. We have to check the tempo of the game. They have good tactics. We will try to play at a high tempo, with passing and scoring.”
Benitez said midfielder Frank Lampard, who returned against Sunderland after a six-week layoff due to an injured calf, is healthy and ready to play today.
“He has been training and is normal,” he said. “He is fine.”
Chelsea captain John Terry did not make the trip as he recovers from a knee injury sustained against Liverpool last month.