Benitez takes heart despite early Chelsea exit
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez did his best to focus on the positives after the holders went out of the UEFA Champions League at the group phase despite thrashing FC Nordsjaelland.
An empathic 6-1 success in west London on Wednesday saw Chelsea end their Group E campaign in style, but Juventus' 1-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk meant the champions finished third in the group and slipped into the UEFA Europa League.
Since taking over from the sacked Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez has seen Chelsea fall 10 points off the pace in the Premier League, and they now hold the dubious distinction of being the first Champions League winners to tumble at the first hurdle the following season.
The bare facts paint a bleak picture of life at Stamford Bridge, but with the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan to look forward to next week, Benitez says there is no time to dwell on disappointment.
"I'm sure playing at the level we played at today (Wednesday), we can do whatever we want, but we have to start in the next game," he said.
"My approach is one game at a time. Everything I'm seeing from the players is good - they are progressing, improving and adjusting to the little ideas we are trying to change."
After both sides had seen penalties saved, David Luiz gave Chelsea the lead from the penalty spot in the 38th minute before Fernando Torres doubled the hosts' advantage in first-half stoppage time.
Joshua John pulled a goal back within 30 seconds in the second half but further goals from Torres, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata and substitute Oscar gave Chelsea a one-sided victory.
Torres had scored only once in his previous 11 games and Benitez said his rediscovered scoring touch was a result of the chances created for him.
"Yesterday in training he was sharp and today he was fine, but the team helped because we were playing with intensity right until the end, even when we were 6-1 up," he said. "If we can play at this level, I think he can score more goals."
Eden Hazard saw a penalty saved before Luiz netted the opener and when Benitez was asked why Torres was not afforded penalty-taking responsibilities, his response suggested the Spaniard does not possess a cool enough temperament.
"Sometimes you don't need strikers to take penalties," said Benitez. "If you have other players who have more calmness or composure - at Liverpool we had (Steven) Gerrard, here we have David and Hazard."
Benitez looks forward to Europa challenge
After the jubilation of May's maiden triumph in the Champions League, Chelsea's fans may view the Europa League as an unfitting competition for the European champions, but Benitez vowed to approach it seriously.
"The Europa League is not important if you don't win, but if you are in the semi-finals or the final, you want to win," he said. "It's an important competition and we want to go as far as we can."
Benitez also believes Chelsea can prosper using a game-to-game approach because they have a deep enough squad to challenge on multiple fronts - despite previously complaining that he does not have enough players at his disposal.
"The reason I'm using different players is because I want to use my squad," he said. "If you use all your players, you can keep your level until the end of the season."
Danes lament class gulf
Nordsjaelland coach Kasper Hjulmand admitted that his side had fallen to vastly superior opposition.
"It was a terrible feeling," he said. "It was obvious for everyone we were outclassed. They were much better than we were, physically and with their strength, and at the tempo they played, we couldn't match it."
The Danish champions finished their debut campaign with a goal difference of -18 and when Hjulmand was asked what his side had taken from the experience, he replied: "A lot of beatings!"