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Wednesday 19 December 2012

Benitez to rotate Chelsea squad for Leeds test

Blues boss could rest first-team players for Capital One Cup quarter-final at Elland Road

Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand could feature at Elland Road on Wednesday night

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez says his squad players could get the chance to shine in tonight's trip to Leeds United in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.

The Blues have the opportunity to the reach the last four of the competition for the first time since 2008 but with the squad having just returned from the Club World Cup in Japan, Benitez is likely to rotate his squad.

"Sometimes I decide to change the team and play different players because we have so many games, and certain players need a rest," Benitez told the club's official website. "You have an opportunity in these type of games.

"Ashley Cole is a fantastic player, he's playing every game and he's doing really well, but after playing so many games, will he be fitter than Ryan Bertrand, who hasn't played as much, is younger and is ready?

"The problem is that we've been playing every game with almost 11 players"
Rafael Benitez

"The problem is that we've been playing every game with almost 11 players, you have to change that, especially at Christmas with a busy schedule, playing the same players all the time."

Benitez's resources are further stretched as John Obi Mikel, Gary Cahill and Ramires are suspended while John Terry remains on the sidelines. Striker Daniel Sturridge is also an injury doubt.

The first-team reshuffle could pave the way for the return of Brazil midfielder Oscar, who has not started a Barclays Premier League match since the end of November.

"He's not happy if he's not playing, which is fantastic," said Bentez. "If it was the opposite, that would be a problem for me. He is one of those players who are keen to learn, he would be happy playing every game, but all of the players need to understand that the most important thing is the team.

"Oscar is a young player who is new in the Premier League. I'm trying to manage these players, especially in that position because we also have [Juan] Mata and [Eden] Hazard.

"It's good for me to have different options. There is no problem, he will have a lot of minutes, I'm really pleased with him and I'm sure he will be a great player for the club."

"If you are giving the right message and doing the right things they will support you"
Rafael Benitez

Benitez took over at Chelsea on 22 November and since his appointment, the Blues have suffered only two defeats in seven matches

And the Spaniard is delighted with the attitude in his squad as they prepare to take on a side that has won four of their last five matches in the Championship.

"At the moment they are fully committed and training hard," he said. "We are trying to talk with them and explain what we are trying to do.

"They are pleased with the ideas and you can see in training sessions that everybody is doing their best to be in the team.

"If you don't play well or win games for two or three months it becomes difficult, not just for me but for any manager.

"The name of the manager doesn't matter because if you are at a club fighting for trophies, the players will want to win. If you are giving the right message and doing the right things they will support you."

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Key Points

  • Chelsea play Leeds United on Wednesday in Capital One Cup quarter-finals
  • Boss Rafael Benitez may rotate first-team squad after Club World Cup exertions
  • Oscar may return to Chelsea's starting line-up