Benitez urges Blues defence to tighten up
Rafael Benitez has told Chelsea they cannot afford any more lapses in concentration at the back if they are to record a much-needed win over Arsenal on Sunday.
Should Chelsea's woeful home form continue, they could end up missing out on Champions League football for the first time since Roman Abramovich took over the club 10 years ago.
Chelsea suffered their latest bout of Stamford Bridge sickness on Wednesday when Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon breached the home defence, allowing Southampton to come from two goals down and claim a 2-2 draw.
Seven days earlier it was Branislav Ivanovic who was at fault, the Serbian gifting Swansea a 2-0 victory after two sloppy passes.
Chelsea captain John Terry could make his first start since November. Terry, who came off the bench at Stoke last weekend, will have a test on his knee injury before interim boss Benitez decides whether to start the defender.
"The team are scoring a lot of goals, as we expect them to, but we have to manage this advantage in a better way," Benitez said.
"We have to be more clinical.
"We have to defend as a unit, as a team, be more compact and not give them any hope they can score."
Arsenal put in one of the most memorable performances of last season at Stamford Bridge, coming from behind to register a 5-3 victory thanks to a superb hat-trick from Robin van Persie.
Arsene Wenger can no longer rely on the Dutchman's goalscoring talents, of course, but with Jack Wilshere back in the side, and the addition of midfield marvel Santi Cazorla, the Gunners are still more than capable of claiming victory at Stamford Bridge.
Benitez would be forgiven for wishing his team were up against weaker opposition, but he is relishing the chance to bounce back from the Southampton draw and extend the eight-point lead they have over their neighbours.
He said: "It's always important when you have a draw at home to have a big challenge ahead of you.
"To have Arsenal is a very good thing for me and the players.
"They are a rival who are close to us. We have to use that as a positive.
"They are close (in the league) and if we win there'll be a big difference."
Nigeria duo John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses are at the African Nations Cup while long-term absentee Oriol Romeu (knee) remains sidelined.
Arsenal will have defender Laurent Koscielny back from a one-match suspension however injured midfield duo Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky (both calf) remain sidelined. Forward Gervinho is away at the African Nations Cup with Ivory Coast.
Gunners boss Wenger admits he has every sympathy for Benitez - but maintains his team will be fully focused to increase the pressure on the Chelsea interim manager with victory.
Benitez was again given a tough time by sections of the Stamford Bridge faithful on Wednesday night against Southampton and should Arsenal look like emulating last season's 5-3 success, then the Spanish coach could well be in for another hot reception from the Shed End.
Wenger, though, insists when they head to the dugout, all coaches have the same agenda.
"I feel sympathy for every manager until the day I play against him. Then the sympathy goes and comes back after the game - not always straight after the game, sometimes it is some time later. We are all in the same position," said the Gunners boss, himself not immune from criticism from the Arsenal fans this season.
"We know we are in a fragile job and that the confidence is very important, but it is a job where you have to take care of your own team."
Neither side can really afford another defeat if they are to fulfil their ambitions of staying in the race to secure Champions League football again.
Given little margin for further error, Sunday's showdown could well turn out to be a cagey affair.
Wenger, however, is expecting an open encounter.
"Both teams have attacking styles. Chelsea is today a team who has many good attacking players so it should be a game with goal chances," he said.
"We will not change our style too much, so we will try to attack and try to create chances."
Wenger will be able to face Chelsea secure in the knowledge Theo Walcott's contract issue is settled after the forward signed a extension to his current deal.