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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee