YOKOHAMA, Japan (AFP) – Interim Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez goes into the Club World Cup final against Corinthians on Sunday hoping for a win to placate fans who have continued to boo him at the Japan tournament.
A 3-1 semi-final win over Mexican side Monterrey Thursday was Chelsea’s third straight victory in all competitions. A total of 12 goals have been scored, with five of those coming from the much-maligned Fernando Torres.
The good run of form has so far failed to silence the Chelsea faithful, who still harbour a grudge from Benitez’s time as Liverpool manager. Booing was noticeable when he was shown on the big screen during the match in Yokohama.
Torres believes the fans will warm to Benitez eventually, and that could come sooner rather than later if the Champions League holders become the sixth successive team from Europe to lift the intercontinental championship.
“Our fans will end up accepting, for sure,” the 50-million-pound striker said.
“The Liverpool-Chelsea rivalry… may have created an animosity which is understandable, but in time that will all change,” the Spaniard added.
Despite Chelsea’s comfortable win, which also included an opener from Juan Mata and an own goal, before conceding in injury time, Benitez says he wants more from his players, particularly in terms of concentration.
“When I talk about a winning mentality, always I talk about little details making the difference,” the Spaniard said.
“The team has to think about winning, and winning in style and not conceding.
“We have to think about the goalkeeper, who wants to keep a clean sheet, so we have to keep our concentration right to the end of the 90 minutes.”
Benitez added that a lapse in concentration such as that which saw Aldo De Nigris score a consolation for Monterrey could cost Chelsea — who are playing at their first Club World Cup — in the final.
“The quality of the Brazilians will be totally different,” said Benitez, who won the tournament with Inter Milan in 2010 but was sacked five days later.
“We have to be aware and we have to be ready.”
“They are a compact team with good players. They are well organised and work hard.”
South American champions Corinthians struggled to a nerve-racking 1-0 victory against Egypt’s Al Ahly in their last-four match but Chelsea will come up against a settled outfit.
They were the first undefeated winners of the Copa Libertadores since 1978 and supplement flair on the wings with the doggedness of Paulinho and Ralf in the centre of midfield.
“We’ve got a settled formation,” central defender Paulo Andre said.
“It’s been working well for us and we’ve got the quality to give as good as we get against Chelsea.”
Corinthians will be cheered on by at least 20,000 of their fans at Yokohama’s International Stadium, hoping to see their side become the first winners from South America since 2006.
Around 1,100 Chelsea fans have made the trip to Japan. Time will tell whether they are booing or cheering come the final whistle.