Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea insist 'it's business as usual' despite Rafael Benitez rant

By Simon Rice

Chelsea have played down speculation that Rafael Benitez could be fired ahead of their weekend match against West Brom following the Spanish manager's angry tirade yesterday.


The interim manager launched an impassioned attack on Chelsea fans and the board following last night's 2-0 FA Cup victory over Middlesbrough.

During the post match interview he also said he would not remain at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season.

Some had speculated the interview, which marked the lowest point in his unhappy tenure, could see him removed as manager before the end of the season.

However, a Chelsea spokesman said this morning: "It's business as usual".

Benitez is expected to take training at the club's Cobham base as normal later today.

Chelsea are under real threat of missing out on Champions League qualification, currently sitting fourth just two points ahead of fifth placed Arsenal.

Last night's victory over Middlsbrough has set up an FA Cup quarter-final tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford while the Blues also remain in the Europa League.

While Benitez has never enjoyed a healthy relationship with the Chelsea fans, who widely booed him at his first game in charge and have regularly sang negative songs about him, it was comments about the Stamford Bridge hierarchy that looked to have put his position in jeopardy.

Benitez said last night: "I have a title. Someone decided the title would be 'interim'. Why? Just in case?

"If they want to blame me for everything that is wrong and then they say, 'We will put interim just in case', fine, that is your decision.

"I don't agree, but it's your decision and now everybody has to take responsibility. If we are in the Champions League, I will be the happiest man in the world.

"But next year, I will leave anyway because I have finished my contract, so they [his critics] don't need to be worried about me. What they have to do is concentrate on supporting the team.

"I have a contract until the end of the season, that's it, so they don't need to be worried about me."

Benitez insisted the Chelsea fans who once again chanted against him at the Riverside Stadium were in the minority, but urged them to look at the bigger picture.

He said: "It's a team in transition - they don't realise. In the past, we had [Didier] Drogba, [Michael] Essien, [Salomon] Kalou. These players, it was a very strong squad, players with experience in the Premier League.

"Now we have a group of players with talent, really good players with talent, but they need time. It's a time of transition.

"But they don't realise it was a time of transition when I came here.

"It doesn't matter what they say. I am a professional, I have experience and I will do my best.

"But if they carry on in the same way, they have to take responsibility because they are damaging the image of the club and the rest of the fans because people think all the fans are the same.

"The Chelsea fans are really good, they support the team, but if they continue with their agenda, I don't think they do any favours to the team."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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