Rafa says relationship with Abramovich is 'fine'
Rafael Benitez has insisted his relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the playing squad is strong despite his rant criticising Blues supporters and the club's decision to give him the title of interim manager.
Benitez launched an impassioned monologue following the holders' 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough last night, which set up a quarter-final tie with Manchester United, and the criticism sparked suggestions his tenure in caretaker charge could come to an end as soon as today.
The comments are unlikely to have gone down well with Abramovich and the Blues board, but Chelsea insisted it was "business as usual" at their Surrey training base, where Benitez took training today.
The Spaniard, who has confirmed he will leave Chelsea at the end of season, is expected to be given at least one more match in charge when West Brom visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday and will hold the pre-match media conference as scheduled tomorrow afternoon.
"My relationship with the owner is really good," Benitez told BBC's Football Focus.
"Every time I talk to Abramovich about football, I enjoy (it).
"I know that he wants to win. I'm here because he wants to win and I will try to do my best until the last day.
"The relationship is fine. I don't have any problem with anyone.
"I have conversations with Michael Emenalo, the technical director, every single day. He watches the training sessions, we talk about football and when I meet Roman Abramovich, we talk about football.
"We talk like normal people. We share a passion for football."
Reports of dressing room unrest, including a dispute with captain John Terry, have been played down and Benitez is adamant there are no major concerns.
"My relationship with the staff, the people at Cobham, is really good, fantastic," Benitez added.
"The players are fully behind our ideas, 100%."
Benitez repeated his wish for the fans to support his team, although given his comments the atmosphere for Saturday's Barclays Premier League match and taunts towards the interim boss could be more toxic than usual.
Fourth-placed Chelsea are in a battle to secure Champions League football next term.
The consequences of missing out could be cataclysmic for the club which conquered Europe last term and securing Champions League football is the over-riding priority.
"I wanted to express my ideas," added Benitez, whose side remain in contention for the FA Cup and Europa League.
"Everybody knows that I will finish my contract at the end of the season.
"So I think that this group of fans, singing, creating banners or whatever, they have to concentrate on supporting the team.
"The majority of the fans they know it's really important to finish in the top four, top three, to be sure that you will play in the Champions League next year.
"I'm thinking about my team, I'm thinking about my club. At the moment what I want to do is to win every game.
"The way to help the team is to support the players every single game, at home, I think it will be easier for us to achieve what we want to achieve."
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 has irked Benitez since his appointment and he finally erupted following 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 victory ratio of 52 per cent, which, alongside Villas-Boas, is the poorest start of any of the nine managers in the Abramovich era.
The reaction of the former Liverpool boss in confirming his departure at the end of the season is likely to heighten speculation over his replacement, with former boss Jose Mourinho, now at Real Madrid, reported to be the top target.
Benitez's successor will become the 10th manager in 10 years under Abramovich.
Never before has the Russian billionaire had three managers preside over his team in one season, but should Benitez depart before the end of the campaign, that is what will happen.
With Mourinho the most likely alternative option under employment, Abramovich could turn to a familiar face in Avram Grant, who was pictured alongside the Russian as a spectator at the recent FA Cup defeat of Brentford.
Israeli Grant guided Chelsea to the 2008 Champions League final, but departed after Manchester United won the trophy in Moscow on penalties.
The Champions League was for so long the Holy Grail for Chelsea.
Di Matteo was initially in charge on an interim basis before he guided Chelsea to a maiden title in Europe's most prestigious competition, plus FA Cup victory, and was granted the role on a permanent basis.
When the Italian departed after the holders' Champions League exit at the group stage, attention turned to Pep Guardiola, who was on a season-long sabbatical after leaving Barcelona.
Guardiola has opted for Bayern Munich, though, and attention returned to Mourinho, the most successful manager in Chelsea's history.
The Portuguese led Chelsea to two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and one Community Shield, but his time in west London came to an acrimonious end following a series of disagreements with Abramovich.