'Business as usual' for Blues
Rafael Benitez is expected to be given at least one more match in charge at Chelsea despite his rant criticising Blues supporters and the club's decision to give him the title of interim manager.
Benitez spoke frankly following the holders' 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, which set up a quarter-final tie with Manchester United. His criticism sparked suggestions his tenure could come to an end imminently, rather than as scheduled at the end of season, with the comments unlikely to have gone down well with owner Roman Abramovich and the Blues board.
Chelsea, however, insisted it was just another day at Stamford Bridge, where reports of dressing-room unrest have been played down. A club spokesperson said: "It's business as usual."
Press Association Sport understands Benitez took training at the club's Cobham base this morning and is likely to be in charge for Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with West Brom, where the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge and taunts towards Benitez could be more toxic than usual.
The 'business as usual' statement is reminiscent of comments made by one of Benitez's predecessors, following the departure of Roberto Di Matteo last November, when the Spaniard was placed in charge.
Andre Villas-Boas, now in charge at Tottenham, said: "At Chelsea, I think another sacking is just like any other day at the office."
It seems the addition of 'interim' to his title has irked Benitez since his appointment and he finally erupted following a fourth win in six games - a run which was preceded by just three wins in 10.
In 27 matches, Benitez has 14 wins and a victory percentage of 52 per cent, which - alongside Villas-Boas - is the poorest start of any of the nine managers in the Abramovich era.
The reaction of the former Liverpool boss in confirming his departure at the end of the campaign is likely to heighten speculation over his replacement, with former boss Jose Mourinho - now at Real Madrid - reported to be the top target.
Whoever replaces Benitez will become the 10th manager in 10 years under Abramovich. Never before has the Russian billionaire had three managers preside over his team in one season, but, should Benitez depart before the end of the campaign and ahead of fulfilling his brief of Champions League football next term, that is what will happen.