Fri, Mar 01, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Benitez berates the Blues’ board, fans

BURNING BRIDGES:Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez went ballistic against the club’s board and fans yesterday, before announcing his imminent departure

AP, LONDON

Then there is regular hounding by a core group of Chelsea supporters, who refuse to accept Benitez after his clashes with the club during his spell as Liverpool manager between 2004 and 2010.

It began at his first match in charge against Manchester City. Many continued to sing the name of Di Matteo, who led Chelsea to their first Champions League title last season, and still do. Others have been more nasty and personal, with “You’re just a fat Spanish waiter” among the vitriolic chants and banners held aloft.

After such a public criticism of the fans, they are unlikely to stop now.

Benitez yesterday unleashed the same criticisms in interviews with a TV station, BBC radio and then at the post-match news conference after the victory over Middlesbrough.

He appeared to require little prompting by journalists, so it could have been a pre-planned attack on the fans who he vowed he would win over on the day he took over.

That has not happened and probably never will. Chelsea fans spent much of the Middlesbrough match singing: “We don’t care about Rafa, he doesn’t care about us. All we care about is Chelsea FC.”

Since Benitez joined, Chelsea have been eliminated from the Champions League, League Cup and lost in the final of the Club World Cup. The team were third in the Premier League, four points behind leaders Manchester City, on his arrival, but are now fourth and 19 points adrift of Manchester United, the new leaders.

In his three months in charge, Chelsea have won 14 of 27 matches in all competitions.

Chelsea could drop out of the top four, and therefore jeopardize the team’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season, if they fail to beat West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

That could spell the end for Benitez — if he is not already gone by then.

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