Benitez was given just three days to pick the European champions up from Tuesday's fateful defeat at Juventus ahead of Sunday's top-of-the-table Premier League clash with Manchester City. But the former Liverpool boss, controversially appointed interim Blues manager on Wednesday night, declared he had already spotted flaws that might explain Chelsea's recent slump during his first training session at their Cobham headquarters on Thursday. And the 52-year-old had no qualms discussing them with his new players, whose confidence has been dented by a run of only two wins in eight matches that saw them slip from first to third in the league and to the brink of crashing out of the Champions League. Benitez said:
"We didn't talk about the Champions League or the next game but about little things I saw and we could improve a bit, and things they were doing well, which Roberto Di Matteo was doing."
All the talk at Benitez's unveiling on Thursday was about his relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich - who he met for the first time over dinner on Thursday night - and the club's fans. But the Spaniard must also win over a squad who appeared fully behind Di Matteo, the man who somehow managed to inspire them to Champions League and FA Cup glory in the wake of the Andre Villas-Boas regime before being unceremoniously sacked on Wednesday morning. Benitez said:
"I'm sure they will be pleased like they were with Di Matteo who, by the way, was doing a great job."
Chelsea started the season like champions-elect but injuries, suspensions, a lack of tactical flexibility and off-field scandals have cast doubt on the overall strength of the squad. Benitez said:
"It's a good squad, a good team.
"If I'm here, it's because I think we can win with them.
"If we can improve by training hard, we will."
Benitez revealed he would look to Chelsea's big-name players to help him get their season back on track.
"In a top side, normally, there will be some important players, some who have more influence," he said.
"I spoke with Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Fernando."
With a contract only until the end of the season - fuelling speculation he is only keeping the manager's seat warm for Pep Guardiola - Benitez is unlikely to have much influence on transfers in January. The Spaniard appeared to accept he would not enjoy the same control as he did during his six years at Liverpool.
"Here, you have a technical director and the manager is a head coach who has to improve the players he has," he said.
"I will talk to the people involved if it's necessary to improve the (squad)."
Chelsea appear in particular need of a striker, even if Benitez succeeds where three other Chelsea managers have failed by helping £50million flop Fernando Torres rediscover the form he showed under his fellow Spaniard at Liverpool. Torres almost helped fire the Reds to the Premier League title in 2009, a trophy that ultimately eluded Benitez. Managers who fail to win the league do not last long at Chelsea, who are four points behind City going into Sunday's game.
"All the trophies are important - some are more important than others," Benitez said, defending his failure to win a championship in England.
"I won the league twice, in Spain. In Spain, Guardiola cannot win the Premier League. You cannot win everything in every country.
"The Premier League, obviously, would be a massive trophy because I know how difficult it is to win it.
"But, at the same time, all the trophies are important."
Especially the Champions League, a competition which Benitez may only manage in for one match, but also the Club World Cup. The timing of Di Matteo's sacking suggested Chelsea were desperate to win a competition they waited so long just to qualify for. Benitez, who lost the final in 2005 with Liverpool before winning with Inter Milan in 2010, said:
"I know how hard it is, and how seriously the South American teams take it, but it would be a great challenge."