By Dale Jones

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has risked further backlash from the Stamford Bridge faithful by admitting captain John Terry is not an automatic starter for the club.

The former England international suffered a knee injury in November which has limited him to just two starts in Chelsea’s last 25 games, with Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic building up a new centre-back partnership in his absence.

And Benitez has admitted that the skipper has to be patient and earn his way back into the starting line-up.

“John Terry has to work to get back. Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic are doing really well together,” Benitez told reporters.

“During the week he had another setback with his knee. Then he was fine again and had no reaction in the next training session.

“But we have to manage the situation. He has to train more with the team, then he will have more options to play.

“It’s a vicious circle. If he cannot play he cannot improve his match fitness.”

Chelsea secured a 1-0 away win over Sparta Prague on Thursday night thanks to a goal nine minutes from time from substitute Oscar, and Benitez is confident his team are well-placed to advance to the last 16 of the Europa League.

He added: “We have the advantage and must have confidence we can finish the job next week.”