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Benitez urges Chelsea to rediscover hunger

ESPN staff
December 5, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
Stamford Bridge on edge

Rafael Benitez insists he does not need another miracle to rescue Chelsea from Champions League humiliation, but acknowledges the Blues need to rediscover their hunger.

Benitez famously masterminded what was dubbed 'The Miracle of Istanbul' seven-and-a-half years ago when Liverpool produced one of the greatest comebacks in European Cup final history to beat AC Milan.

But he declared that Chelsea do not require divine intervention to avoid becoming the first Champions League holders to crash out of the competition before Christmas. That is despite the Blues going into their final Group E game needing to beat Nordsjaelland while hoping Shakhtar Donetsk produce the same result against Juventus.

Benitez acknowledged Chelsea might need "a bit of luck'' but said: "I don't think it's a miracle. We have to do our job and wait for the other teams.''

The Spaniard, who had an ill-fated spell in charge of Inter Milan after they won the competition, admitted it was "normal'' for teams to lose some of their hunger the following season.

He said: "It's like, 'Okay, we have done the most difficult thing'. It changes a little bit the perception, changes a little bit the approach for the next competition. That is the difficult thing, to manage the hunger of the players and the hunger of the staff. It's part of our job to push them and try and try to keep the competition.''

Nordsjaelland boss Kasper Hjulmand, meanwhile, is aiming to deliver the knockout blow to Chelsea's Champions League hopes and exploit the unrest at Stamford Bridge. Hjulmand backed the European champions to weather the supporter revolt against Benitez and their alarming slump in form over the past six weeks.

But he was hoping to delay their revival for another 24 hours by masterminding the greatest triumph in the Danish champions' history.

Hjulmand said: "They have a little dip right now but they'll come back and they'll show who they are in the near future. Hopefully not [against us] but, after that, it's just a matter of time.''

Benitez is expected to be the victim of more jeers, abuse and protest banners at Wednesday's game.

"It is weird,'' Hjulmand said of the fan reaction. The psychology is, of course, to see if we have a result as far as possible. We can only focus on what's important for us and that's what we're going to do on the pitch, no matter what happens outside, no matter what we see or hear.

"This is all about us performing and we have to be very concentrated and play maybe our best match ever to get a result.''

Chelsea player to watch: Fernando Torres will remain the central focus until he shows signs of life up front for Chelsea. The goal drought continues to extend, and his last effort was a fluky one against Shakhtar.

Nordsjaelland player to watch: Jesper Hansen could be key to building pressure on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The visiting keeper can play a big part in forcing the home fans to turn on their side if he can keep a clean sheet until half-time.

Betting: Benitez has always had a special touch when it comes to Europe, so back him to get his first Chelsea win, 2-0 at 11/2 with bet365.

Prediction: 2-0

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