Rafael Benitez declines to comment on Liverpool ahead of return to Anfield

The Chelsea interim-manager returns for the first time

Rafael Benitez focused only on the immediate future and not his past with Liverpool as he prepared to take his Chelsea side to Anfield in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday.

The Spaniard declined to assess Liverpool since his departure in June 2010 or to talk about events at Anfield ahead of his first return as an opposing manager.

"I have a lot of respect, but I have to concentrate on my team," Benitez said.

"I don't want any misunderstanding, so I will concentrate just on Chelsea and the game and try to enjoy it, especially if we can win."

Benitez is expected to receive a warm welcome in the week which marked both his 53rd birthday and the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

He spent six years at Anfield, helping Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League in his first season, the FA Cup, the Community Shield and European Super Cup, while the Reds finished second in the Premier League in 2008-09.

His family home remains on Merseyside and he supports the campaigners in their fight for justice for the 96 supporters killed at Hillsborough in 1989.

His is a lasting bond with Liverpool, but Benitez's aim is to defeat his former club.

"I'm a professional and I am committed with Chelsea until the end of the season, to win, to achieve our targets," said Benitez, who is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

"I was there for six years, winning a lot of things together.

"They (Liverpool supporters) will appreciate that, but at the same time they will try to support their team and they will understand that I have to try to do my best and win."

Benitez recently was quoted as saying he wanted to return "home" to Liverpool and that his wish was to move to a top club, possibly in England next season.

That was interpreted by some as a possible return to Liverpool, but Benitez meant his family home.

For reasons of clarity, the Spaniard declined the opportunity to appraise Reds incumbent Brendan Rodgers.

"I have a lot of respect for Liverpool Football Club and all their managers," he said.

"What I said clearly is Liverpool is my home, my family is living there and because I don't want any misunderstanding, I will not talk about the club, the position or the manager's position or whatever. My family's there, it's my home."

Benitez was speaking on the day Chelsea returned the European Cup to UEFA ahead of next month's Champions League final at Wembley.

The Blues won the tournament last May - seven years after a controversial semi-final defeat to Liverpool, who Benitez then steered to glory in Istanbul - but their group-stage exit prompted the Spaniard's appointment.

There were numerous duels between the Reds and the Blues for trophies during Benitez's spell at Anfield.

His prior history with Liverpool meant his appointment - short-term though it is - at Stamford Bridge was an unpopular one, but he appears to have reversed the tide of vitriol and the team are well placed as the season draws to a close.

Chelsea enter this weekend's fixtures in third place and in pole position for the final automatic qualifying place for the Champions League group phase - the club's priority - and play Basle in the Europa League semi-final first leg next week.

Placing third and winning the Europa League would likely lead to high demand for Benitez's signature next term.

He is unfazed that his personal situation is still to be resolved.

He said: "I am not worried about the future. The future for me is the next game.

"I don't think about my CV. I think about the targets. The target is to finish in the top four, top three, that is the priority - and if you can win a trophy it would be a bonus."

Victory at Anfield would do much to enhance Chelsea's bid to return to Europe's elite competition next term and earn back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since December.

Captain John Terry scored twice in Wednesday's 3-0 win at Craven Cottage, but is poised to return to the substitutes' bench as Benitez rotates his options with Switzerland in mind.

Terry suffered a knee injury in the reverse fixture in November, prior to Benitez's appointment as successor to Roberto Di Matteo.

Since his return in January, Terry has been a less than central figure, sparking conjecture about disagreements with Benitez.

Terry backed the need for rotation this week, while insisting he is ready, willing and able to play more than once a week.

"We agree 100 per cent," Benitez said.

"He said he can understand if I pick another player and he will be the first one supporting the team. Everything is fine."

PA

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

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

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past