Rafael Benitez given frosty reception by Chelsea fans


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The Independent Football

Chelsea captain John Terry was named only as a substitute alongside striker Fernando Torres as Rafael Benitez made his first return to Stamford Bridge since his criticism of the Blues fans.

The reception for the match with West Brom was expected to be even more hostile than usual for interim boss Benitez, who urged the supporters to back the team following Wednesday's 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough and made seven changes, with only Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Oscar retained.

West Brom, under former Chelsea player and coach Steve Clarke, made two changes, with Graham Dorrans in for the injured Chris Brunt and Marc-Antoine Fortune starting in place of Romelu Lukaku, who is ineligible against his parent club.

Much of the focus was on Benitez after his midweek deviation from measured politician to ranting rabble-rouser. At least that is what he claimed his intention had been.

Due to his prior association with Liverpool, Benitez's appointment was never a popular one, but he hoped the crowd would use their energies to back the team.

Banners including "The Interim One", "Not wanted, Never wanted" and "Rafa Benitez we're just not that inter im" were held up by the crowd.

The Spaniard snuck on to the home bench as the teams were presented before West Brom boss Steve Clarke, a former player and coach at Chelsea, was introduced to warm applause.

Then the expletive-laden chants began in the direction of Benitez, but there was also plenty of encouragement for the Blues players, meaning perhaps the Spaniard's comments had been heeded, at least to some extent.