Benitez: Chelsea are ready if Manchester City or Manchester United slip up

Rafa Benitez has insisted that Chelsea will continue to improve as they wait for Manchester City or Manchester United to make further errors in the Premier League title race.

Wins over Aston Villa and Norwich during the festive period, with the two Manchester clubs both dropping points in some capacity, have seen the Blues climb within four points of Roberto Mancini’s second-placed side.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, who drew at Swansea but managed to claim all three points in a thriller against Newcastle with a late goal on Boxing Day, remain a further seven points clear at the top of the table.

However, the former Liverpool manager is convinced there is still a chance that side can catch the leaders if they keep improving, while he acknowledged they are reliant on their rivals making mistakes.

He was quoted by the Mirror saying: “We cannot have any influence on other games, we have to do our job and we cannot be frustrated at other results.

“The message is very clear – if we can improve our team and keep winning games, we will have our chance.

“I feel we are doing well in the last month, growing, progressing, we can manage different types of games and still get results, which could be really important.

“If they keep winning games, OK, you can do nothing, but we can improve and that will be the main thing for us.”

Juan Mata has been a hit at Stamford Bridge since his £23.5 million move from Valencia last summer, and his 13th goal of the season gave the west Londoners victory against the Canaries on Wednesday, with Benitez saying he is one of league’s finest talents.    

“Mata is a player who is very dangerous getting into the box and also outside the box so we are very pleased with him,” he continued.

“The Premier League has a lot of good players and Mata is one of the best, for sure.”

The Spaniard remained coy on the futures of England duo Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, however, with the pair both out of contract in the summer and therefore permitted to speak to other clubs in January.

The 52-year-old insisted both players remain valuable squad members but did rule out the option of them leaving the Blues in the near future.

“From my position it is very easy – it is a private conversation between Frank and the club,” he added.

“He is a player who is under contract, he is a good player and I will try to bring the best from him. That is my position.

“Each player is obviously an individual situation, so I don’t know if Ashley has had a conversation with the club. For me they are players under contract, they are good players and I will use them if necessary.”

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