Rafael Benitez has insisted his relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the playing squad is strong despite his rant criticising Blues supporters and the club’s decision to give him the title of interim manager.
Benitez launched an impassioned monologue following the holders’ 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, which set up a quarter-final tie with Manchester United, and the criticism sparked suggestions his tenure in caretaker charge could come to an end as soon as today.
The comments are unlikely to have gone down well with Abramovich and the Blues board, but Chelsea insisted it was “business as usual” at their Surrey training base, where Benitez took training yesterday.
The Spaniard, who has confirmed he will leave Chelsea at the end of season, is expected to be given at least one more match in charge when West Brom visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday and will hold the pre-match media conference as scheduled tomorrow afternoon.
“My relationship with the owner is really good,” Benitez said.
“Every time I talk to Abramovich about football, I enjoy (it).
“I know that he wants to win. I’m here because he wants to win and I will try to do my best until the last day.
“The relationship is fine. I don’t have any problem with anyone.
“I have conversations with Michael Emenalo, the technical director, every single day. He watches the training sessions, we talk about football and when I meet Roman Abramovich, we talk about football.
“We talk like normal people. We share a passion for football.”
Reports of dressing room unrest, including a dispute with captain John Terry, have been played down and Benitez is adamant there are no major concerns.
“My relationship with the staff, the people at Cobham, is really good, fantastic,” Benitez added.
“The players are fully behind our ideas, 100%.”
Benitez repeated his wish for the fans to support his team, although given his comments the atmosphere for tomorrow’s Barclays Premier League match and taunts towards the interim boss could be more toxic than usual.
Fourth-placed Chelsea are in a battle to secure Champions League football next term.
The consequences of missing out could be cataclysmic for the club which conquered Europe last term and securing Champions League football is the over-riding priority.
“I wanted to express my ideas,” added Benitez, whose side remain in contention for the FA Cup and Europa League.
“Everybody knows that I will finish my contract at the end of the season.
“So I think that this group of fans, singing, creating banners or whatever, they have to concentrate on supporting the team.
“The majority of the fans they know it’s really important to finish in the top four, top three, to be sure that you will play in the Champions League next year.
“I’m thinking about my team, I’m thinking about my club. At the moment what I want to do is to win every game.
“The way to help the team is to support the players every single game, at home, I think it will be easier for us to achieve what we want to achieve.”
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.
Andre Villas-Boas, now in charge at Tottenham, said: “At Chelsea, I think another sacking is just like any other day at the office.”
Benitez’s successor will become the 10th manager in 10 years under Abramovich. Never before has the Russian had three managers preside over his team in one season.