'This is now my club' - Benitez
Soccer:Rafael Benitez has refused to bow to pressure and apologise for his controversial comments about Chelsea and their fans. Blues supporters called for their new manager to say sorry on Monday for what they perceive as criticism of them while he was in charge at Liverpool.
Benitez endured a savage reception upon his introduction as Chelsea boss in Sunday's Premier League draw against Manchester City and fan groups have suggested there will be no let up in tomorrow's west London derby with Fulham. The chair of Chelsea Supporters' Group said an apology would help win over some fans but, as during his unveiling on Thursday, Benitez questioned the accuracy of some of the quotes attributed to him.
"The problem is we can analyse what I said and didn't say," he said. "We can't be checking if it's true or not. I'll try my best to win their trust. That's it."
One comment that is beyond dispute is Benitez's praise of the passion of Liverpool fans, which included a sideways dig at that of Chelsea supporters.
The quote has been immortalised at the Reds' Melwood training ground and pressed on whether he would apologise for it, he said: "I was praising the fans of my club, my team. But I'm here now, it's my club, and I will do my best for them. That's my explanation, very easy and very simple.
"I will try to defend my club, and this is now my club."
Another problem facing the Spaniard is the form of Fernando Torre and the manager has admitted he is unsure as to whether the striker can recapture his Liverpool form at Chelsea. Benitez insists he can improve the fortunes of the Spain international, who he helped become one of the best strikers in the world at Anfield, but, worryingly for those Chelsea fans, he says the 28-year-old is not the player he once was.
Three Blues managers have failed to get Torres scoring regularly, each repeatedly insisting there was nothing wrong with the forward, other than a lack of confidence, but the man who knows him best says the rest of the team must play its part in his revival.
"He’s not exactly the same player now, because he was at maximum level at this time [at Liverpool]. But I think he can come back. How close? I don’t know. It depends on the rest of the team. I’m sure he can improve, but the team has to help him.”
Torres also has to help himself, following a run of just 19 goals in 88 games for the European champions.
“The first thing is to give him some confidence, instructions as to how he can do things in a different way, improve him a little bit physically,” said Benitez, before reiterating the role his teammates can play.
“You need to be stronger in defence, regain the ball easier and then you can create your own chances. That will benefit Torres. Players with mobility, quality... we can improve all these things.”
Benitez denied he was under pressure to pick his compatriot amid reports previous Chelsea managers had been given the impression by owner Roman Abramovich that the club’s record signing must play.
“It’s easy at the moment because \[Daniel] Sturridge is still injured,” he said.
Indeed, Sturridge is Chelsea’s only other recognised centre-forward and it seems unthinkable they will not attempt bolster their attack in the January transfer window.
But Benitez said: “I can guarantee I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to watch any DVDs, or have conversations about this or that player. I have to improve the players who are here.”