Benitez refuses to rule out title shot

Rafael Benitez believes a good festive period can get Chelsea in the title race

Rafael Benitez believes a good festive period can get Chelsea in the title race

First published in National Sport © by

Rafael Benitez is refusing to dismiss Chelsea's hopes of winning the Barclays Premier League title despite the sizeable gap between themselves and leaders Manchester United.

Chelsea moved into third place following Sunday's 8-0 demolition of Aston Villa and have now won five of their last six games in all competitions ahead of their Boxing Day trip to Norwich. The Blues are still some way behind United in the title race, trailing by 11 points, but Benitez is not ruling anything out.

Asked if he will tell his players they can still win the league, Benitez said: "We will see after two or three more games. You could see the team had confidence in themselves, they believed, and that was there to the end. They had good movements, created chances. Now we have to sustain this run and it will be easier for me to say we can compete."

The Spaniard, who has been an unpopular figure at Stamford Bridge since he was brought in as interim manager on November 21, seems to have revitalised Blues frontman Fernando Torres - who he also managed at Liverpool - with the striker scoring seven times in his last six games.

"The players were really focused from day one," Benitez said. "They knew they had a new manager and they had to perform. The players, from day one, were trying to learn, to improve and they were keen to learn."

Another player who looks to be developing under the leadership of Spaniard is David Luiz, who has been switched from defence into central midfield - a decision which saw the Brazilian produce a nonchalant but vibrant display against Villa.

Capped off with a spectacular goal from a technically difficult free-kick, the re-deployment of Luiz looks to be a triumph for Benitez in reshaping Chelsea's attack in a position where they have sometimes struggled to fully impose themselves.

Benitez confirmed the 25-year-old could find himself playing further up the pitch on a more regular basis following Sunday's performance.

He said: "We will analyse it carefully. Maybe, if he can relax, he can play more games in this position because it's easier for him to rest here."

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