While you were sleeping, Chelsea moved one step closer to a world title.
Even as the Blues approach history, Rafa Benitez continues to face resistance. But as Chelsea soak up the benefits of a decidedly welcomed side quest, the club's outlook might be turning.
Chelsea, the reigning European champions, eased to a 3-1 victory over Mexican power Monterrey on Thursday in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinals in Japan (via FIFA.com). Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and a Darvin Chavez own goal gave the Blues a 3-0 lead within 48 minutes, and Aldo de Nigris pulled one back for Monterrey in the final minute.
With the victory, Chelsea advanced to Sunday's final to play Corinthians of Brazil. With another victory, the Blues would earn the club's first FIFA Club World Cup title.
Chelsea won comfortably on Thursday and showed further signs of turning around a recent slump that saw former manager Roberto Di Matteo sacked and the Blues deposed from the top of the Premier League. That being said, new manager Rafa Benitez still has yet to win over the fans, as Goal.com's Liam Twomey reports:
Even six thousand miles from Stamford Bridge, Rafa Benitez could not escape the boos, nor the pointed chants of 'There’s only one Di Matteo’. Yet in spite of it all there were signs of progress, and the possibility that in this chapter of remarkable success in the Chelsea story, there may be another page of success to write on Sunday.
Success on Sunday would not be unexpected, nor would it rank among the most prestigious titles in the club's history. Yet it would represent progress for Benitez and could signal a return to contention for Chelsea after a rough stretch both domestically and in Europe.
Now 10 points off the pace in the Premier League, Chelsea won't have another chance to make up ground until Dec. 23. But a world title—even if it would be largely ceremonial without all the heavy hitters involved—would serve as a potential relaunching point in the league.
Standing in the way will be Corinthians, a club that has invaded Japan with thousands of fans (via FIFA.com). But even with all that support, the Brazilians should be no match for Chelsea.
With artisans like Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar influencing matters in the middle of the park, Chelsea have more quality than any other team competing in Japan this week. That should translate to success on Sunday—and in turn a new sense of goodwill around the club.
"Now the team knows what we want to do," Benitez told FIFA.com after Thursday's match. "They have more confidence and are enjoying their football a bit. We still need more time to keep improving."
Despite the smattering of boos, Chelsea's trip to the Far East seems to have served as a welcome distraction. Now, though, it's time to take care of business.