Rafa back to business at Blues

Rafael Benitez is expected to be given at least one more match in charge at Chelsea despite his rant criticising Blues supporters and the club’s decision to give him the title of interim manager.

Benitez launched a passionate monologue after the holders’ 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough on Wednesday, which set up a quarter-final tie with Manchester United.

His criticism sparked suggestions his tenure in caretaker charge could come to an end as soon as today, rather than as scheduled at the end of season, with the comments unlikely to have gone down well with owner Roman Abramovich and the Blues board. Yet Chelsea insisted it was just another day at Stamford Bridge, where reports of dressing room unrest have also been played down.

A club spokesperson said: “It’s business as usual.”

Benitez took training at the club’s Cobham base yesterday and is likely to be in charge for tomorrow’s Premier League clash with West Brom, where the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge and taunts towards Benitez could be even more toxic than usual.

The ‘business as usual’ statement is reminiscent of comments made by one of Benitez’s predecessors, following the departure of Roberto Di Matteo last November, when the Spaniard was placed in charge.

Andre Villas-Boas, now in charge at Tottenham, said: “At Chelsea, I think another sacking is just like any other day at the office.”

It seems the addition of ‘interim’ to his title irked Benitez since his appointment and he finally erupted after a fourth win in six games — a run which was preceded by just three wins in 10.

In 27 matches, Benitez has 14 wins and a 52% victory percentage which — alongside Villas-Boas — is the poorest start of any of the nine managers under Abramovich.

Whoever replaces Benitez will become the 10th manager in 10 years under the Russian.

If Benitez leaves before the season ends, it will be the first time the Russian billionaire has had three managers preside over his team in one season.

With Jose Mourinho and the most likely alternative options in work, Abramovich could once again turn to former boss Avram Grant, who joined the oligarch as a spectator for the FA Cup fourth round win over Brentford.

Chelsea enter the weekend contest with West Brom in fourth place — the final Champions League spot — with a two-point lead over Arsenal and two points behind third-placed Tottenham, although the north London sides face off on Sunday.


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