Chelsea are bidding to consolidate their place in the top four and a Champions League qualifying spot by winning their game in-hand over Tottenham. Benitez said: “I haven’t wasted any second thinking about how many (points) we need. It’s just the next three points. I’m just thinking about the next game. I don’t waste time when you have so many games. You cannot be doing numbers all the time. It depends on the other teams.” Press Association Spurs and Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge on May 8 in what could effectively be a Champions League play-off. But Benitez, who takes Chelsea to his former club Liverpool in another key game on Sunday, anticipates the race to the top four will continue until the final day of the campaign. He said: “Hopefully we can be there. I don’t know who will be with us. The league will go until the end of the season. Hopefully I am wrong and we will be qualified before (then), but I think it will be until the end of the season.” Experience is key at this stage of the season, and Benitez added: “The head makes the difference. At the end of the season it’s more important to be strong mentally and approach every game with the belief you can win.” Chelsea have players with the requisite experience. Frank Lampard and captain John Terry are expected to return at Craven Cottage, having been unused substitutes in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City. Midfielder Lampard could be in the final months of his Chelsea career, with his contract expiring and the prospects of an extension uncertain, and is three short of overtaking Bobby Tambling as the club’s record goalscorer. “The main thing is the team,” said Benitez of Lampard, who last scored against West Ham. “I would like to see Frank breaking the record, for sure. (But) if I pick him it’s because I think that he’s a good player. I’m sure he can score goals. Hopefully he can score more than two and then he will break the record.” Rafael Benitez normally likes statistics, but the Chelsea interim boss has had no time for numbers ahead of tonight’s west London derby at Fulham where three Barclays Premier League points is all that matters.
Published on February 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm TAMPA, Fla. With his snatch of a South Florida alley-oop attempt, Kris Joseph keyed the ignition. An ignition that started Syracuse’s blazing transition offense. A transition offense that only took three seconds to move basket to basket.In SU’s 72-49 romp over South Florida on Saturday, it resurfaced in its full-on light-speed form. The Orange scored 10 fast-break points to the Bulls’ two and 18 points off turnovers while committing only eight. For the first time since SU’s 18-0 start to the season, the Orange’s up-tempo game ran another up-tempo team out of its own building.‘A lot of teams that like to get in transition don’t like getting back,’ SU guard Brandon Triche said. ‘We weren’t really worried about them.’Triche, SU point guard Scoop Jardine and head coach Jim Boeheim said the fast breaks were enabled as a result of Syracuse’s revitalized swarming defense. It held the Bulls to a paltry 49 points. The game was shades of the only other times opponents were held beneath 50: Nov. 12 against Northern Iowa and Dec. 11 against Colgate. Joseph’s highlight was the perfect example on the afternoon of what SU’s defensive web can produce on the other end of the floor.‘When our defense is better, you get more of those,’ Boeheim said. ‘When our defense is good, you get the transition offense. Tonight our defense was better, we forced some turnovers.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAt the 19:31 mark of the second half, Joseph provided the most graceful turnover of the game that steal by skying to pick off an Anthony Crater pass intended for Jawanza Poland.One second later, his feet hit the ground. And at the 19:28 mark, Triche laid the ball in the SU basket.Ninety-four feet in three seconds.Jardine credits the defense, his own increased personal maturity, Triche and the other guards for the transition offense’s success. They have to stay patient and composed for plays like Joseph’s to happen. They can’t cheat. ‘Guard leakage,’ he calls it.Saturday, every possible hole was clogged.‘Us guards just leaking out, we weren’t waiting ‘til our bigs got the rebound,’ Jardine said. ‘In this game, we were getting rebounds, they were getting it to me, and I was picking my spots.’Jardine picked his spots all right, bothering and pestering the USF defense when it was out of position. But he was just one of the many keys in the north-south Syracuse attack. Eight contributing players ran down the St. Pete Times Forum floor for the Orange. Each played at least five minutes in the first 16 minutes of the game.There was Rick Jackson on the backside hauling in rebounds as well as Joseph’s three steals starting it all up. There was Triche and Dion Waiters, finishing at the other end with fast-paced fluidity.There was also C.J. Fair, one of the most important parts in the transition offense Saturday. Fair was everywhere. He helped Jackson by grabbing nine rebounds while also kickstarting fast breaks on his own by blocking shots with his long frame.A frame Jardine compared to the most integral part of SU’s transition game a year ago: Wes Johnson. In his sole season playing for the Orange in 2009-10, Johnson excelled in tipping passes like Fair, while also soaring for steals and dunks like Joseph and Triche.Johnson, of course, couldn’t do it all by himself in three seconds, though. A trio can. Saturday, SU had eight players vying to be one of the three. On one play, even burly freshman center Fab Melo got up the floor to take part. The same Melo that Boeheim has ridiculed time and again for not being worthy to play if he can’t run the floor.In the second half, Melo was ahead of Jardine on a break. In a split second, his eyes widened and head tilted as he screamed at the point guard for the ball. He wouldn’t get it.But letting Jardine know he could fit the system was all that mattered.‘I ran. I ran the court faster than them,’ Melo said after the game. ‘They are not used to me running fast like that. I wanted the ball.’[email protected] Comments Facebook Twitter Google+