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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'