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FIFA Club World Cup: Predicting Rafael Benitez' Chelsea Team vs. Corinthians

Jack Alexandros RathbornContributor IIIDecember 15, 2012

FIFA Club World Cup: Predicting Rafael Benitez' Chelsea Team vs. Corinthians

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    Chelsea enter Sunday's final at the Club World Cup off the back of a routine victory over the Mexican side Monterrey.

    Benitez is generating some momentum, even if Nordsjælland, Sunderland and Los Rayados are not considered the highest quality of opponents.

    Corinthians will pose a sterner test and will assume the role as a "home" side in Japan, outnumbering the Blues supporters by far. The Timão are one of the most popular teams in the world and are estimated to have brought up to 30,000 fans to Yokohama.

    One of the biggest findings from the semifinal for Chelsea was the deployment of David Luiz as a defensive midfielder.

    It proved to be a success, briefly, during the Champions League game with Nordsjælland, and Luiz relished the opportunity to play there again on Thursday. So with the re-emergence of Frank Lampard from injury, it's going to be fascinating whether Benitez maintains the Brazilian in this role.

    Here is how Benitez will probably set up the side for the final on Sunday.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

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    Petr Cech seemed to be at fault for Monterrey's consolation goal in the semifinal and has been the subject of some criticism in the British media as Chelsea's weak link.

    For the moment he will not have his place under threat. But when Thibaut Courtois' loan with Atletico Madrid ends in the summer, the Blues might be tempted to bring in the Belgium international.

Right-Back: Branislav Ivanovic

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    Branislav Ivanovic's versatility has posed Benitez a problem since he has arrived at the club.

    The Spanish tactician has toyed with using the Serbian through the middle instead of his more accustomed role at right-back.

    Against a more potent attack than Monterrey in Corinthians, I expect Benitez to field Ivanovic as a full-back.

Centre-Back: Gary Cahill

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    Gary Cahill's adjustment to a top class side in Chelsea since his move from Bolton has been impressive.

    His ability on the ball is a huge asset for the Blues, and the desire to win aerial duels is also a big positive to the side.

    Continuously a threat at the other end of the pitch at set pieces, Cahill is slowly making himself indispensable in this side without John Terry.

Centre-Back: David Luiz

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    I expect Luiz to revert to centre-back for the final due to the exceptional quality that the Timão will possess directly against him, should he line up in the midfield.

    Brazilian international Paulinho's ability to break up play could expose Chelsea if Luiz were to get too confident bombing forward.

    It is a great option to have moving forward under Benitez and will provide the Blues with an extra dimension in the future.

Left-Back: Ashley Cole

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    Ashley Cole seems to lose concentration a little bit these days, but he is obviously still first choice for the Blues.

    Benitez predicted that the England international's Chelsea career could be coming to an end, but it will be the big games like these that Cole will show that he is worth a contract extension.

Defensive Midfield: Ramires

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    Ramires missed the match with Monterrey due to Benitez being more prepared to field an attack-minded side against weak opposition.

    But Ramires will be expected to come back into the side against a much more potent Corinthians outfit, pushing Luiz back into defence.

    His energy and work rate will be invaluable moving forward.

Defensive Midfield: Jon Mikel Obi

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    Jon Mikel Obi is banned for the next match against Leeds United, so it is highly probable that Benitez will maintain the Nigerian in the starting lineup for this game.

    Providing extra steel and physical assets to match those that Ralf and Paulinho can offer, Chelsea will surely match the Timão like-for-like in the midfield.

    Mikel and Ramires are a more natural fit against experienced opponents, rather than the Luiz experiment, which might still need to be tested.

Attacking Midfield: Oscar

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    Oscar's place in the lineup has not be as assured under Benitez as it was when Roberto Di Matteo was in charge.

    But Corinthians' left-sided midfielder Danilo is 33 years old, and Oscar's movement and intelligent runs inside may drag him back and nullify a threat that Corinthians could offer from their left side.

Attacking Midfield: Juan Mata

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    Juan Mata is in scorching form of late and will continue to pull the strings down the middle under Benitez.

    Getting closer to Fernando Torres is going to help facilitate more chances for El Niño, and with the former Valencia player's willingness to surge past the striker, Chelsea have one of the most complete attacking midfielders in Europe.

Attacking Midfield: Eden Hazard

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    Eden Hazard is slowly returning to the sensational form that he produced in the opening matches that he played with the Blues.

    After a quiet spell in the side, Hazard is gaining in confidence and producing those dazzling runs from deep that slice open the opposition at will.

    Looking to emulate his senior in Juan Mata, Hazard's prominence in the side will continue to grow as the season develops.

Striker: Fernando Torres

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    It is still not, nor will it probably ever be, the Torres that burned the opposition for pace while he was at Liverpool.

    But we have signs that this Torres can be an effective striker for the Blues, due to his instinctive finishing and alertness in and around the penalty area.

    The key is to evolve for Torres, and he is doing just that.

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