Benitez confident of winning over Chelsea fans
Rafael Benitez goes into his second home game as Chelsea manager still adamant that he can win over the Blues fans who greeted him with such vitriol on his debut.
Benitez will again face the home crowd at Stamford Bridge tomorrow in a derby with Fulham, having been roundly booed by supporters as he took charge for the first time in Sundays 0-0 draw with Manchester City.
"I understand the feelings of the fans and I know how they feel because of my time at Liverpool and the rivalry," Benitez said. "I want to prove to them that I am here for the right reasons, I am here to win and if I can do it they will be pleased."
Benitez hastily replaced the popular Roberto Di Matteo after he was fired by owner Roman Abramovich despite having led the team to its first ever Champions League title last season. Benitez, who only has a contract until the end of the season, has been unpopular at Stamford Bridge since coaching rival Liverpool and fans held up "Rafa Out" signs during the City match.
"I concentrate on my coaching and try to improve players, then it will be easier to win games and bring the fans back. All I can say is that I'm working very hard to do my job," Benitez said. "I make sure I talk to all the players and I prepare for everything ahead of the game. The only thing I can do is try to win their trust by doing my job. The best way to change things is by winning games."
Another problem for Benitez to solve is how to improve the poor form of striker Fernando Torres.
The Spanish striker has scored just one league goal since finding the net against Arsenal at the end of September, and was dropped by Di Matteo for the Champions League loss to Juventus in Italy that all but ended the defence of their European crown.
Benitez has a successful history with Torres after signing him for Liverpool from Atletico Madrid and is adamant that he can get his fellow Spaniard back on the right track.
"I'll try to give him some confidence, see what he can do in a different way and improve him - along with the rest of the team - physically," Benitez said. "He's not exactly the same now because as he was at the maximum level at that time. He can come back and improve but the team has to help him."
Chelsea will be without captain John Terry as well as midfielder Frank Lampard and striker Daniel Sturridge after all three failed to recover from injury.
Elsewhere, second-place Manchester City will aim to keep the pressure on crosstown rival Manchester United when it travels to Wigan. City will have its captain Vincent Kompany available despite speculation that he might be rested after playing the full 90 minutes against Chelsea on Sunday, having picked up a knee injury against Real Madrid in the Champions League last week.
City first-team coach David Platt said it shouldn't be a problem.
"It's not a case of it being too much at all. Vinnie would have still been feeling the effects of the injury that he picked up last Wednesday in the game, but he got through the game and got through it very well," Platt said. "There were no after effects, he iced it straight afterwards as a precaution. We don't really have any concerns for him tomorrow night."
Leader Manchester United welcome West Ham to Old Trafford with England striker Wayne Rooney insisting that his team must tighten up its defence if it is to remain at the Premier League summit. United have kept just one clean sheet all season, against Wigan at Old Trafford in September.
"Clean sheets are the foundation we try and achieve because we have plenty of players who can score goals and win games," Rooney said. "As a team we are playing some good stuff at times but we are having to grind out results as well. "
In other key matches, Arsenal will have England winger Theo Walcott back from injury for the trip to Everton, Tottenham welcomes Liverpool to White Hart Lane, Southampton host Norwich, Newcastle make the trip to Stoke with French midfielder Yohann Cabaye ruled out until February with a groin problem, and third-place West Bromwich Albion go to Swansea.