Manuel Pellegrini Chelsea link piles pressure on to Rafael Benitez


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The Independent Football

Manuel Pellegrini's agent has added to the pressure on Rafael Benitez by claiming an intermediary representing Chelsea has sounded him out about the availability of the Malaga manager.

Jesus Martinez also admitted that Pellegrini, who has a contract with the Spanish club until 2015, would love to manage in the Premier League and is preparing to make a decision about his future. The 59-year-old Chilean led Malaga to fourth place last season and this term has guided them through to the last 16 of their maiden Champions League campaign as well as keeping them near the top of La Liga.

The failure of Chelsea, who face Brentford in an FA Cup replay tomorrow, to offer any commitment to interim manager Benitez beyond the end of the season has left the Spaniard isolated, and talk of potential replacements has fuelled fans' antipathy.

Martinez said in Chilean newspaper El Mercurio: "Manuel has a contract with Malaga. I think that in April and May we will be clear about what will happen with his future. Our first intention is to respect our commitment, but it also depends on what the conditions are. We had a formal offer from Roma, but we rejected it. It was less than 15 days ago, but we discarded it outright because we are in the middle of the season.

"Chelsea and other clubs have asked, but only through intermediaries, nothing official. Manuel would love to coach in the English Premier League, as he would in Germany, Italy and other important leagues."

The claim will do little to ease the pressure on the embattled Benitez, who has been unpopular with the Stamford Bridge faithful since replacing Roberto Di Matteo in November.

He is set to pick John Terry for tomorrow's game but has admitted that working the supporters' hero back into the team regularly is a problem.

Meanwhile, Brentford goalkeeper Simon Moore says the League One side will use the uncertainty surrounding Benitez to their advantage. Fernando Torres's equaliser seven minutes from time at Griffin Park rescued Chelsea from an embarrassing defeat to their neighbours in the first match. Benitez has since guided his side to two consecutive victories but remains under pressure to secure a top-four Premier League finish.

"I think it's a great time to play them" said Moore. "Things behind the scenes don't seem right there at the moment and you could hear after the first game their fans screaming Rafael Benitez's name. That can only be a good thing for us if it's up in the air and gives us more of an opportunity to win the game. Obviously it's a real strange situation at the moment. He's only contracted there until the end of the season. It must be weird for him, thinking it's a hiding to nothing, really."