Chelsea’s interim manager Rafa Benitez faces a hostile reception from the club’s fans this weekend but despite apparently criticising the Stamford Bridge hierarchy the Spaniard says he has an excellent relationship with owner Roman Abramovich.
Benitez, brought in to replace Champions League-winning manager Roberto Di Matteo, confirmed on Wednesday he would leave the club in May during a post-match news conference in which he criticised Chelsea fans.
The former Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan manager has been booed and heckled from the stands ever since arriving at the London club in November and his patience appeared to snap after Wednesday’s 2-0 FA Cup victory at Middlesbrough.
As well as accusing fans of not supporting the team properly he described the decision to give him the title of “interim manager” as a “massive mistake”.
Following his comments there was intense speculation that Abramovich might wield his well-used axe, but Benitez will be in charge for the home Premier League game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday - a vital fixture in the club’s quest to stay in the top four of the table.
“My relationship with Roman is very good,” Benitez, who is holding his usual pre-match news conference later at Chelsea’s training ground, told the BBC.
“They know how we work and what we are trying to do.”
“The players are really happy in what we are trying to do. Sometimes you win, sometimes you cannot,” he added.
“The atmosphere in the club is really good. There are no issues in the team. In terms of what we do, the players are fully behind the methods.
“If we stick together and support the players, we will be able to win games. Then at the end of the season I will leave and then they can criticise.”
Some Chelsea fans have been unable to accept Benitez as manager because of the rivalry they had with Liverpool while he was in charge at Anfield and demeaning comments he once made about the west London’s club’s supporters.