Benitez keen to add to Blues' woes

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The Independent Football

Three years ago, a manager who had taken his team to two league championships became so dismayed with the doubts of his employers and boardroom pressure to play their record signing that he began to seek work outside the stadium where he was revered and departed amid emotional scenes at the end of the season. Perhaps the paths of Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho are more entwined than we previously imagined.

The careers of the Liverpool and Chelsea managers have been intrinsically linked since they arrived on these shores in the summer of 2004, and commenced a rivalry - and occasionally a feud - that appropriately brings them together to celebrate their 100th Premiership games at Anfield this lunchtime. Yet the parallels are not confined to England.

At Valencia, Benitez cajoled a club without a title win in over 30 years to two La Liga triumphs in three seasons. His reward was to have aspersions cast on his influence on the success, to be denied the transfer funds he sought and to be pressured into utilising record signing Pablo Aimar more regularly.

If that sounds familiar to Chelsea, then they should perhaps heed the warning of the Mestalla. Like this week's rapprochement at Stamford Bridge, Benitez and his adversary at Valencia, the sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch, made public declarations of harmony in their working relationship during his final season at the club, but the rift was already too deep. The Spaniard ultimately took his success story elsewhere, and Valencia have won nothing since.

"I don't know exactly what is happening on the inside there," said Benitez yesterday, keen to distance himself from any controversy in his latest encounter with the man who ended Chelsea's 50-year wait for the title. "My idea is not to talk about things you don't know and sometimes not to talk about the things you do know! What I would say though is that Spain is different to England in that the chairman and the chief executive at a club have a very different relationship with the manager."

A more immediate concern for the Liverpool manager is how to secure his first league victory in six attempts over Mourinho. "It is always difficult to play Chelsea, always," Benitez insisted. "They have good players, a good manager, and they've won the Premier League for the last two years. All we can say is that if we want to challenge them for second place, we need to win this game."

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