x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Firefighting Benitez says no problems with Chelsea fans ahead of West Brom clash

The interim manager insists all is fine with the players, and it is normal for fans to 'express their feelings'.

Rafael Benitez speaks to the media during a press conference in Cobham, England. Clive Rose / Getty Images
Rafael Benitez speaks to the media during a press conference in Cobham, England. Clive Rose / Getty Images

Rafael Benitez, Chelsea's interim manager has called for the fans to support him, as part of the team, in today's clash with West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

The Spaniard prepared as usual for the Premier League fixture after appearing to backtrack from some of his comments made earlier this week in which he criticised the decision to give him the 'interim' title and the supporters' continued barracking of him.

It was put to Benitez that the supporters might be even more angered following his comments and that the atmosphere in Stamford Bridge could be even more vitriolic, with the prospect it could be his last game in charge.

He said: "I am part of the team. I need the supporters behind the team.

"The fans can express their feelings. That is normal. I don't have any problem with that.

"They have to stay behind the team, supporting the team."

Due to his prior association with Liverpool, Benitez was never a popular appointment in west London and has regularly been the subject of the fans' ire.

Benitez on Wednesday confirmed he will leave at the end of the season, with his target still a place in the top four and Champions League football next term, and insisted the timing of his comments was devised to encourage the supporters to back their side.

Benitez, who has met Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay in each of the past two days, pointed to the positive atmosphere in the wins over Napoli, which took place last season, and in January against Arsenal, which spurred the team on, and asked for that backing to return.

"The best for my team is to have a very good atmosphere behind them, players feeling the support," he said.

"Against Napoli they were running an extra mile. Feeling the support against Arsenal, they were running an extra mile. I was trying to explain that if we stick together it will be easier."

Benitez also insisted he has no issue with the Chelsea board and that his job title is not a concern, despite saying following Wednesday's FA Cup win at Middlesbrough that the decision to name him 'interim' boss was "a mistake".

Benitez said: "One thing's a mistake. Another's an issue. Now it's not an issue.

"In my head, I am the manager. I have to manage the team. The title doesn't matter. The Champions League is a big title."I just concentrate on my job."

Benitez insists he has the backing of the players.

"A lot of the players have been supporting me, have been telling me to carry on doing my job," said Benitez, who declined to reveal the content of "private conversations".

"I don't have any problem; it's the opposite. I have a very good relationship with everyone."