Benitez happy with Terry break
Rafael Benitez believes captain John Terry is fit enough to lead Chelsea into the defining period of their season after benefiting from the recent international break.
Terry's campaign has been severely disrupted by a knee injury and he has been unable to play consistently for Chelsea since returning to action in January.
But Terry's decision to retire from England duty gave him two weeks in which to work on his fitness and break the "vicious circle" in which he had found himself trapped.
Chelsea's Barclays Premier League clash with Southampton on Saturday is the first of five games in 13 days, that includes quarter-final ties in the FA Cup and Europa League.
"Every time when a player is injured he needs time to come back. This break is important," Benitez said.
"He was training with us every day and improving his fitness.
"We had just five players so we could pay more attention to everyone. He was positive and it was positive in terms of the time we had with him.
"It is just a question of how many games can you play? We will have four games in nine days. It is the same for everyone.
"You can't play all these games and be 100 per cent - not just him, everyone."
Chelsea face a gruelling schedule and Benitez admitted it will be impossible to field a full-strength side in every game because players cannot perform at their peak twice inside 48 hours.
But Benitez welcomed the packed calendar and selection headaches.
"The most difficult one will be these two games (coming up) because they are so close," Benitez said.
"It is better to have this problem than be at home watching it on the telly because it means you are still competing."
Benitez is also hoping that Gary Cahill and Ramires will be available to face Southampton.
"We have to ensure we have a competitive team against Southampton and a competitive team against United. We have to manage the squad carefully," he said.
Benitez is not concerned that his players may consider the FA Cup tie with Manchester United to be the priority.
"They want to finish in the top four and guarantee Champions League football for next season so hopefully that will be the motivation for them," he said.
Cesar Azpilicueta has also said the Chelsea squad is fully behind Rafa Benitez - and he admits it would be easier for the players if the fans were too.
Benitez has endured a tough time at Stamford Bridge since filling the managerial void created by Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal in November.
The Spaniard has struggled to win over a sceptical fan base, with past rivalries and inconsistency on the field working against him.
Benitez will, however, remain in charge until the end of the season, and Azpilicueta admits it is important that a united front is maintained as the club continue to compete on multiple fronts.
The Spanish full-back told The Independent: "The supporters have these feelings because they have clashed many times before but Rafa, right from the start, came in with so much enthusiasm and desire to get results and so we concentrate on that.
"Of course, it's easier when everyone is pulling in the same direction, but the world is not like that. There are so many different opinions. There are always people happier with the situation than others and it comes down to respecting everyone's position."
He added: "We still don't know what decision will be made by the club (in the summer). Right now we are with Rafa and we are concentrating on the here and now.
"Every day he is altering little things, modifying my game, we watch videos. He is passionate about football and always trying to make everything perfect."