Chelsea go into the FIFA Club World Cup with real aspirations of coming out victorious and therefore being crowned Best Team in the World. Now if you can ignore the contradiction in the fact that the potential World’s Best have just been knocked out of the European running by teams from Italy and Ukraine you can begin to understand how important it is for Chelsea to win the competition.
Firstly they are overwhelming favourites. With Corinthians of Brazil originally considered their only real source of competition some pundits have started to consider their semi-final opponents Monterrey a little more favourably after their impressive performance against Ulsan Hyundai in the quarter-finals but realistically most expect Chelsea to come back with the trophy.
It would be timely for a club currently going through a stage of mini-turmoil to pick up some vital silverware and perhaps go a little way toward calming the Rafa picketers at Stamford Bridge.
In fact Rafa Benitez is perhaps the best man for the job; not just because of his apparent Fernando Torres form conjuring abilities but more to do with his experience in this competition.
Liverpool - 2005
The 2005 championships were also held in Japan and Benitez would like to go one better than he did on his previous occasion. His Liverpool side were defeated in the final by Brazilian outfit Sao Paolo 1-0 in the final.
The Brazilian side had scraped through their semi-final 3-2 against Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia so many did not expect any trouble in Liverpool disposing of the club in the final. Liverpool had eased through a game with Costa Rican outfit Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 with goals coming from Peter Crouch (2) and Steven Gerrard.
In the final at the International Stadium in Yokohama (where incidentally this year’s final will also be held) Liverpool came up against an inspired Rogerio Ceni in the Sao Paolo goal and a goal from midfielder Mineiro proved to be enough to win the game. That was the first goal Liverpool had conceded in over 1,041 minutes of play and was enough to claim the title of world’s best club for Sao Paolo.
Inter Milan - 2010
Five years later he got another crack at the title with Inter Milan. Despite struggling to win over fans on a domestic front at the time he oversaw the sides triumph against African side TP Mazembe in the final. Goals from Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto’o and Jonathan Biabiany were enough in a comfortable victory in Abu Dhabi. It was their second successive 3-0 win in the competition after dispatching of Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the semi-final by the same convincing scoreline.
All in all Rafa Benitez has a quite mixed history in the competition; however if he were to make the final he would become the first manager to achieve that feat three times, one ahead of Pep Guardiola.
Can Rafa Benitez lead Chelsea to world glory?