x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Premier League round-up: Chelsea supporters 'in turmoil'

Fans warn Rafa Benitez he must win, while Everton extend Hitzlsperger's contract.

Chelsea's Spanish interim manager Rafael Benitez (L) talks to Chelsea's English midfielder Frank Lampard before he is substituted during the English League Cup first leg semi-final football match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge in London on January 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ìliveî services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Chelsea's Spanish interim manager Rafael Benitez (L) talks to Chelsea's English midfielder Frank Lampard before he is substituted during the English League Cup first leg semi-final football match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge in London on January 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ìliveî services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

Even as a Chelsea supporters group said Rafa Benitez can expect more abuse at the club's next home game, Tony Pulis, the Stoke City manager, has said the Spaniard needs time to settle in at the London club.

Under Benitez, Chelsea have recorded several high-scoring victories but he was unable to prevent them from crashing out of the Champions League. They were beaten in the final of the Club World Cup, and on Wednesday they suffered a 2-0 home defeat in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final against Swansea, a week after losing 1-0 at home to strugglers Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League.

"You have to grind it out and get through it," said Pulis, whose side play host to Chelsea today.

"You have to get results and that is what Rafa will have to do. If he gets results and he gets lucky, then he has a fantastic football club to build.

"He has proved before at football clubs that he can manage at the highest level. Given the chance, who is to say he couldn't do it at Chelsea?

"But he needs the opportunity, and that does not mean weeks or months - you have got to give people time."

Chelsea's supporters have been left in "turmoil" since Benitez replaced the fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo, according to the Chelsea Supporters Group chair Trizia Fiorellino, who claims the club's fans will never accept their current manager.

She, like many Chelsea fans, are unhappy with Benitez's tactics, including his reluctance to use the veteran midfielder Frank Lampard, and warned a "nasty" atmosphere could grip Stamford Bridge again next Wednesday should the team play poorly at home against Southampton.

"I think if we don't perform and we go a goal down it could get really nasty," she said.

"If he keeps on losing games then this will continue. The fans are in turmoil.

"There are those that won't accept Benitez at any price, and you have those that feel the current situation is not doing the team any good and feel that they should just accept it until he has gone.

"That has caused arguments in the stands and scuffles. A couple of people came to blows [Wednesday]. It was a really sad state of affairs."

Lampard looks set for the exit at Stamford Bridge, with his current contract with the Blues due to expire in the summer and his agent claiming he will not be offered a new deal by the club.

Pulis has no doubt that Lampard and Chelsea have proved a superb match for each other and feels it would be a shame for any separation to be acrimonious.

"Whether the argument is that Chelsea should offer him a new contract or not, it is not my decision," he said.

"But I think it has been a great marriage and you just hope it doesn't end in tears - that they part amicably, and that a true star of a football club walks away with everyone applauding what he has done and achieved."

Everton v Swansea City

David Moyes, the Everton manager, confirmed yesterday that Thomas Hitzlsperger, the German midfielder, will be staying with the club until the end of the season.

Hitzlsperger, without a club since leaving Wolfsburg last summer, signed a short-term contract with the Toffees in October that saw him through to this month.

The 30-year-old former Aston Villa and West Ham player has made seven appearances for the Merseyside outfit and, asked about Hitzlsperger’s future, Moyes said: “We have decided to keep him on.

Thomas is going to stay until the end of the season.” Ross Barkley, the 19-year-old midfielder, left Goodison Park yesterday to join Leeds United on an initial one-month loan deal.

Moyes is optimistic full-back Leighton Baines will be available for today’s match with Swansea.

Michael Laudrup, the Swans manager, has no new injury concerns.

Aston Villa v Southampton

Ron Vlaar, the Aston Villa captain, could play today after returning to training following a seven-week absence with a calf injury. The midfielders Ashley Westwood and Brett Holman also are back in contention for the match between struggling sides. However, the striker Darren Bent will be out for 10 days with a knee injury. Jay Rodriguez, the Southampton striker, said that his side are going into the match with an “inner confidence”.

Fulham v Wigan Athletic

Roger Espinoza, the Honduran midfielder, is set to make his Wigan debut and Roberto Martinez, the manager, is hoping it will help end his side’s poor run against Fulham. Wigan’s last win over Fulham came at Craven Cottage in 2006. Since then they have met 12 times, with Wigan picking up only six points. For Fulham, Mahamadou Diarra and Kerim Frei are both unavailable, but Martin Jol can welcome back Mladen Petric, Damien Duff, Mark Schwarzer and John Arne Riise.

Sunderland v West Ham United

Martin O’Neill, the Sunderland manager, will be without the defenders Danny Rose and Carlos Cuellar for today’s match. Each suffered hamstring injuries during last weekend’s FA Cup third-round draw at Bolton and will be missing for several weeks. The central defender John O’Shea remains a doubt despite a return to training. Marouane Chamakh, the West Ham striker signed on loan from Arsenal, has gone straight into the squad for today’s game.

Norwich City v Newcastle United

Alan Pardew was yesterday dealing with reports that Fabricio Coloccini, the club captain, was seeking a move back to South America for personal reasons. Pardew has been able to welcome back Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye, who is likely to start on the bench today. The club also have signed the French full-back Mathieu Debuchy. Grant Holt, the captain, could return to the Norwich line-up today after a lay-off with a hamstring problem.

Reading v West Bromwich Albion

The Fulham right-back Stephen Kelly had a medical at Reading yesterday ahead of a permanent move, while two new signings, Daniel Carrico and Hope Akpan, are set to make their debut against West Brom. Steve Clarke, the Baggies manager, has challenged the winger Jerome Thomas to fill the void left by long-term injury victim Zoltan Gera. Thomas’s deal expires after the season but Clarke said staying would offer him a great chance to play regularly.