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Benitez issues a warning

Yokohama: Rafael Benitez issued a defiant warning to Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini Friday by claiming that Chelsea can still win the Barclays Premier League title this season.

Chelsea will fall 13 points behind Manchester United Saturday if the leaders beat Sunderland at Old Trafford, but Benitez believes his side can use their positive experiences of the Club World Cup as a platform from which to mount a genuine title challenge.

Chelsea face Corinthians in the final in Yokohama Sunday and Benitez is planning to issue a rallying cry to his players on the plane home if they return with the trophy. The interim manager has been buoyed by Chelsea’s improvement since his surprise appointment last month, particularly in winning their past three matches, and is convinced that they can exploit what he perceives to be signs of vulnerability at both Manchester clubs.

“People have asked me questions about whether it’s a two-horse race, but if you win two or three games in a row you have more confidence,” Benitez said.

“If we win here and we play like we played against Monterrey — it will be different because Corinthians will be more compact — with the quality we have going forward and the right balance in defence this team can win games in a row easily.”