December 5, 2012, 1:09am
CHELSEA manager Rafael Benitez is confident his misfiring team will pull off an unlikely Champions League escape act tonight and avoid becoming the first holders to crash out of the competition at the first hurdle.
The Blues, who have not won in three games since Benitez took charge, must beat Danish minnows Nordsjaelland at home and hope that Group E leaders Shakhtar Donetsk defeat Italian champions Juventus in Ukraine.
Benitez believes that unlikely scenario will transpire, despite a draw suiting both Shakhtar and Juve, and insisted it would not be a miracle to rank alongside his Liverpool side’s famous comeback in the 2005 final.
“We don’t need a miracle. We just have to do our job,” he said. “I’m convinced that Shakhtar can beat Juventus. The only thing we can do is win our game but I have confidence that Shakhtar will do well. They have players that want to be seen around the world. They will want to win and I’m sure they will try.”
A 3-1 defeat at West Ham on Saturday has increased pressure on Benitez and further harmed the popularity among Chelsea fans of a man still disliked by some for his role at Liverpool during a period of intense rivalry. But the Spaniard yesterday brushed off suggestions that the team’s worrying decline would prompt notoriously demanding Blues owner Roman Abramovich to parachute in former boss Avram Grant as an advisor.
“I know Avram Grant is a nice person and a good manager, but all the information I have is he’s not coming,” Benitez added.
The former Valencia boss has been booed by Chelsea fans at both of his home games so far, but he denied feeling under pressure and declared himself pleased with some elements of his brief, unsuccessful tenure.
“If you analyse the three games we did a lot of good things,” he said. “The first two clean sheets was a good point to start. There are lots of positives.”
Benitez has centre-back David Luiz back but experienced pair John Terry and Frank Lampard are not yet fit.
Chelsea have clinched a deal to sign 18-year-old Brazilian full-back Wallace from Fluminense. He will sign in January but arrive next summer.
Chelsea need to beat Nordsjaelland and hope Shakhtar defeat Juventus. A Juve draw in Ukraine would be enough for the Italians to pip Chelsea by virtue of their head-to-head record