Benitez insists all is well with Chelsea board
Composite photo of Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez during his press conference at Stoke d'Abernon. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire
Soccer: Rafael Benitez has insisted he has no issue with the Chelsea board, that his job title is not a concern and that his criticism of fans were designed to encourage a unified backing of his team.
Benitez appeared to backtrack from some of his comments made earlier this week in which he criticised the decision to give him the 'interim' title and the supporters' continued barracking of him.
"I didn't have any problem with the board," he said. "I didn't have any problem with Michael Emenalo (the technical director). I didn't have any problems with Roman Abramovich (the owner). I don't have a problem with the players. What I want to do is the best for the team, the best for the club.
"I have been for 26 years training and coaching and always I have had principles, respect and education. It's the way that I have achieved what I've achieved. We have 11 games to play. If we stick together, it will be easier and we can get more points. I would like to see a fantastic atmosphere supporting the team, and I will be really pleased with that."
Following Wednesday's FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, Benitez said the decision to appoint him as 'interim manager' was "a mistake".
"It's not an issue now," Benitez said. "I said before... One thing's a mistake. Another's an issue. Now it's not an issue. In my head, I am the manager. I have to manage the team. The title doesn't matter. The Champions League is a big title. "I just concentrate on my job. That's fine, okay."
Due to his prior association with Liverpool, Benitez was never a popular appointment in west London and has regularly been the subject of the fans' ire.
Benitez on Wednesday confirmed he will leave at the end of the season, with his target still a place in the top four and Champions League football next term, and insisted the timing of his comments was devised to encourage the supporters to back their side.
"I will finish my contract until the end and I don't want to be a distraction," he said. "What I want to say to everyone is that if they concentrate and support the team, it will be easier."
Benitez, who has met Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay in each of the past two days, pointed to the positive atmosphere in the wins over Napoli, which took place last season, and in January against Arsenal, which spurred the team on, and asked for that backing to return.
"The best for my team is to have a very good atmosphere behind them, players feeling the support," he said. "Against Napoli they were running an extra mile. Feeling the support against Arsenal, they were running an extra mile. I was trying to explain that if we stick together it will be easier."
It was put to Benitez that the supporters might be even more angered following his comments and that the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge could be even more vitriolic on Saturday.
He said: "The fans can express their feelings. That is normal. I don't have any problem with that. They have to stay behind the team, supporting the team. That is the way for me. It will be fantastic for the players, for everyone. I am part of the team. I need the supporters behind the team."
Benitez insisted he had no regrets about joining Chelsea.
"When I decided to come here, it was because I have ambition," he added. "I have passion for the game and ambition, and I want to win trophies. Still we have two trophies to play for and I will try to do my best and win these trophies. I have confidence that what I'm doing is right, and I'll try and do my best. And I will try to do my best until the last minute."
It is possible Benitez's temporary tenure could come to a premature end. There is recent precedent for a change of Blues manager following losses to West Brom. The final Premier League matches for Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez's immediate predecessors, were defeats at The Hawthorns.
After 11 points out of a possible 24, Benitez's Chelsea must improve their form after slipping to fourth in recent weeks, but he is not considering the prospect of tomorrow's match being his last, with the FA Cup and Europa League still targets too.
"'If' is not a point for me now," he said. "I'm quite positive we can get a result, finish in the top three, top two. We will see. That is my feeling. Realistically, it won't be easy. Manchester City are a good team and they have good players. They can keep winning games and it will be difficult. But you never know in football. Top three, top four. That is a target.
"It's very clear still we have a lot of good chances. We will try to do our best in every competition. West Brom will be the first one. After that we'll try to progress in the Europa League and FA Cup. Every game is important. We want to win every game."