Pablo Hernandez plots to dethrone King Rafael Benitez
Swansea City's record signing hoping to impress against Chelsea
Tuesday 08 January 2013
Pablo Hernandez, Swansea City's record signing, has hailed Rafa Benitez as "the king" – but the Spain international wants to dethrone the Chelsea manager by putting one foot into the Capital One Cup final when Michael Laudrup's side visit Stamford Bridge for tonight's semi-final first leg.
Hernandez, 27, played in Valencia's youth team in 2003 when Benitez was manager at the club where he claimed two La Liga titles and the Uefa Cup. But that will count for little as the £5.55m wide man bids to put the Welsh club into a major cup final for the first time in their 100-year history.
"Rafa is a king in Valencia and the people love him there because he won three important titles," Hernandez said. "It's been difficult for Rafa at Chelsea because on the first day people wanted him out. The fans are passionate, but he needs more games. In the past, Rafa has been a good coach in La Liga and the Premier League. But people at Chelsea are not used to Rafa.
"It will be two difficult matches against them. They are a good team and the last winners of the Champions League. But it's an important game for the club and I think we can win. We've won at Arsenal and beaten Manchester City and Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium so we know we can play well. If we score in the first match then it is possible to win in the second one. To play at Wembley in a final would be great."
Hernandez, who scored in the 1-1 Premier League draw between the sides in November, also faces a reunion with former Valencia team-mate Juan Mata, and has pinpointed Chelsea's playmaker as the man Swansea's defence must shut out.
"Mata is a big friend of mine. He was my room-mate at Valencia for two years," Hernandez said. "He's an important player for Chelsea and won't be easy to stop, but I have confidence in the Swansea defence. Chelsea have a lot of big players and we also have to be wary of [Fernando] Torres and new signing [Demba] Ba. But Mata is a player we need to stop."
If Swansea can frustrate the hosts in the first 90 minutes of the tie, then the pressure will intensify on Benitez. And Laudrup, indulging maybe in a mind game of his own, has claimed the only way Benitez can overcome those at Stamford Bridge that are still unhappy with his appointment is by winning trophies.
"Rafa will tell his players what happens in the stands happens and they must concentrate on playing," Laudrup said. "But there is nothing like wins. You know how football is and results and more results will mean the past is the past and suddenly more and more [people] will respect [him] and less will be shouting bad things about the manager.
"Chelsea are the big favourites, then Swansea and Aston Villa and Bradford. It is normal and they have to accept that. Three of their players [Torres, Hazard and Mata] cost more than the other three teams put together."
Odds Chelsea 4-9 Draw 7-2 Swansea City 7-1
Kick-off 7.45pm (Sky Sports 1). H/L BBC 1, 11.05pm.
Referee A Taylor (Greater Manchester).
Latest in Sport
Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce: Manchester United striker 'agrees to personal terms' with Turkish side
Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs posts bizarre video of his Miami holiday being invaded by an iguana
Women's World Cup 2015: England secure third place as they beat Germany in extra time with penalty by Fara Williams
Arsenal transfer news: Gunners will only consider 'astronomical offer' from Atletico Madrid for Santi Cazorla
Why is it that there’s no women’s team at Manchester United? - Michael Calvin
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Right to die: Belgian doctors rule depressed 24-year-old woman has right to end her life
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll