Chelsea interim-manager Rafael Benitez: 'Everybody has realised we have to stick together'

Benitez senses a better atmosphere at Chelsea as the club continue to chase three prizes

Stamford Bridge

Rafa Benitez admitted that a winning run of three games had reduced the mutinous atmosphere at Stamford Bridge and the abuse directed at the manager himself, as Chelsea moved into third place in the Premier League ahead of Tottenham Hotspur with a 2-1 win over Sunderland.

The voluble hostility towards Benitez from the home fans has diminished considerably to the extent that yesterday even the 16th minute chant for Roberto Di Matteo ebbed away quickly. While Benitez accepts that he will never win over the Chelsea fans between now and the end of the season he claimed that the change in atmosphere at Stamford Bridge had helped.

Benitez said: “You can say it’s  important to have everyone sticking together and pushing in the same  direction. That’s clear.

“I try to concentrate on my job. I do the same, but obviously people are asking me and the feeling is everybody has realised we have to stick together and support the team. That was my message before, and that is still my message now.”

He added: “It [the atmosphere] is always important. When you have a great game, it’s the atmosphere. The best nights here are with great atmosphere. It’s always very positive.

The Chelsea manager moved Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard and John Terry to the bench from Thursday’s Europa League side, with the latter not playing any part in the game. However, an injury to Demba Ba, hurt in a challenge by Craig Gardner, for which the Sunderland midfielder was booked, means that Chelsea could yet again find themselves short of strikers.

Ba was replaced at half-time by Torres, who played a part in Chelsea’s equaliser, an own goal by Matthew Kilgallon. Benitez said: “When you change at half-time, it’s not fine. It’s too early. A problem with his [Ba’s] ankle. We’ll see. The tackle was a heavy tackle, but we don’t know.”

Should Chelsea reach the final of the FA Cup and the Europa League they may have to play four games in the space of seven days between 5 and 11 May and it is unlikely, Benitez conceded, that his team would be able to secure a top four Champions League place before then.

“I don’t think that will be possible because Spurs and Arsenal are still there pushing, Everton as well,” he said. “We have to continue to the end. Hopefully we can do well in the cup competitions and be ready for Fulham and Liverpool. We cannot say it will be done [before the end of the season]. They will push anyway.”

The winning goal came from Branislav Ivanovic after Cesar Azpilicueta’s own goal had given Sunderland the lead just before half-time. “I was really pleased with the team,” Benitez said. “The first half, we didn’t start well. We were giving the ball away easily, conceded a late goal. Strange, but a very good reaction.

“Fernando made an impact quickly and the team were much better, on top of them, scored two goals and had control of the game. We didn’t score the third and gave them hope, so we had to defend, but after playing four games in eight days I’m really pleased.

“Too many games, short time, short period, it’s important to keep the team winning and ready, everybody on their toes. You have to be able to play anyone. We’ll have another four games in the next week, so we cannot stop. We have to get results and keep the right mentality.”

Chelsea play Rubin Kazan in Moscow on Thursday night, the second leg of the quarter-final tie that they lead 3-1 from the home game at Stamford Bridge. They play Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday followed by Fulham at Craven Cottage three days later.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower