• Premier League

Benitez hints at Mikel cover amid Paulinho reports

ESPN staff
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John Obi Mikel will be heading to the African Nations Cup © Getty Images
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Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has revealed that the club are likely to target a holding midfielder in the January transfer window.

The Blues have seen Oriol Romeu ruled out for the rest of the season due to knee surgery and John Obi Mikel is heading to play at the African Nations Cup for Nigeria and possibly won't be back in England until after the final on February 10.

With Michael Essien out on loan at Real Madrid and only Ramires able to offer cover in the position, reports have linked Corinthians' Brazil international Paulinho and Newcastle's Cheick Tiote with a move to Stamford Bridge.

While Chelsea have a host of attacking options with the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses, Oscar, Frank Lampard and Marko Marin, Benitez is aware that there are gaps elsewhere which need to be filled.

"You need to know the players and find the balance," Benitez said in The Times. "If you have too many players with quality - these players we were talking about, all dynamic but cannot regain the ball - you do not have the balance. If you give the ball away, you have to regain [it]."

Chelsea, who begin their Club World Cup campaign on Thursday against Monterrey, will reportedly have scouts watching Paulinho when the Copa Libertadores champions play their semi-final against Al Ahly.

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