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English Premiership

Play for Rafa, Cahill implores Blues

CAHILL-QUAGIALLERALONDON, England, January 29 – Gary Cahill believes Chelsea’s second-half fight-back in the weekend FA Cup draw at Brentford confirmed Rafael Benitez has the full backing of the dressing room.

Benitez’s side will attempt to close the gap on second-placed Manchester City when they return to Premier League action at Reading on Wednesday following two frustrating cup fixtures.

Their failure to beat League One Brentford came after Chelsea’s League Cup semi-final exit at Swansea.

And the visiting supporters at Brentford’s Griffin Park made no attempt to disguise their criticism of Benitez, who has failed to win over the Chelsea fans following his unpopular appointment as interim manager last month.

Cahill acknowledges the tension among between manager and supporters but insists the way the side rallied after trailing Brentford at the break underscores the unity in the squad.

“There is a lot of pressure from the fans but we needed to just try to do the job,” the centre-back said. “In the end, we grafted it out on a horrible day and we now need to show our quality at home.

“It was the character we needed to dig in and just get the result we needed,” Cahill added. “Obviously we wanted the win but at least we have taken it back to the Bridge and hopefully we can finish the job there.

“Everyone was aware how important the game was. Ideally we would have gone in at half-time a couple of goals up but that wasn’t the case.

“There were a few words said in the dressing room from Rafa (at the break) and then between the players themselves.

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“Everyone knew we were below par. We spoke about that and we needed to do something about it in the second half.”

Benitez and his players will be well aware they will have to deliver an improved performance if they are to claim victory over Brian McDermott’s fast-improving Reading side.

Chelsea lie 11 points behind league leaders Manchester United and while Benitez admits his side’s title hopes are fading fast, he believes a run of victories could transform the picture at the head of the table.

“If you win two or three games in a row in the Premier League you never know what can happen,” Benitez said.

“Obviously it still depends on the others, but we have to do our job and win some games in a row and I’m sure we will be closer,” the former Liverpool manager added. “Realistically, it will be difficult but not impossible.”

Reading come into the game on the back of four successive victories including the comfortable FA Cup victory over Sheffield United that set up a fifth round meeting with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Their priority, though, is survival and successive league wins against West Brom and Newcastle have lifted McDermott’s team to third bottom, just one point off safety going into the latest round of matches.

“The form has been excellent and all the lads have done really well,” said Reading left-back Nicky Shorey. “Hopefully, we can keep that going.

“To be honest, the Chelsea game is just another game. It’s another chance to get three points on the board and help us with our survival bid.”

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Recent signing Daniel Carrico is again expected to be left on the sidelines as he acclimatises to English football.

“Putting him in against West Brom was a tall order, we’ve got to get him up to speed,” explained Reading manager McDermott.

“He was Sporting Lisbon captain, you can see in training he’s a good player and he just needs time. He needs time to train and to adjust. When he gets that, he’ll be a good player for us.”

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