Cech has only missed 12 Premier League matches since the start of the 2008-09 season, including the shock loss to QPR on Wednesday, but he looks set to sit out a few more before the end of January – with the shot-stopper in a race to be fit for the visit of Arsenal on Jan. 20. Cech was hurt in a win over Everton on Dec. 30, exiting with an ankle injury.
“They [the medical staff] say two or three weeks. In this case, I am quite optimistic, but that could be the time,” Benitez told reporters after the loss to QPR.
Chelsea went into the QPR fixture in good form, winning their previous seven games in all competitions, but Benitez was left bemoaning fatigue following Shaun Wright-Phillips’ second-half winner.
“We had confidence we could carry on doing well. We changed some players, and you could see some players were a little bit tired," Benitez said. “[QPR] were deep, we were not precise with possession, we were not passing the ball with the tempo we were expecting, and at the end we made a mistake and gave them a chance. It was too many things together that were not working for us."
Despite his form for the Blues, Juan Mata did not get the start on Wednesday, and Benitez defended his decision, expressing the need to rest players during a busy portion of the season. Eden Hazard, Ashley Cole and Ramires also found themselves on the bench to start the match.
“We cannot carry on with the same players," Benitez said. "If you play against a team at the bottom of the table at home, you have to trust your players. The main thing was we were a little bit tired, and you could see we didn’t have the intensity on the ball we were expecting.
“[Mata is] one of the players [in need of a rest]. Two or three players have been playing too many games in the last weeks or months. We were trying to manage every game with two or three players and it was going well, but today it didn’t."
The loss leaves Chelsea in fourth spot, 14 points behind table-toppers Manchester United, and Benitez admits it will be a tough ask to catch up with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.
“We have to do everything almost perfectly if we want to reduce the gap,” Benitez said. “When you lose a game it is more difficult, but I can’t be thinking about the points gap. It’s only about the next game.”
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