Benitez seeking home comforts
Rafael Benitez denies criticism from Chelsea's fans is affecting his team's home performances and has vowed to make Stamford Bridge the impenetrable fortress he encountered when he was Liverpool boss.
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The Blues have chalked up six wins on the road during Benitez's reign, but they have only managed one victory in six attempts at their west London home, where the interim manager has become used to fans calling for his head.
Chelsea's latest bout of home sickness came on Wednesday night when they feebly surrendered a two-goal lead to emerge with only a point against lowly Southampton.
During Jose Mourinho's time in particular, visitors to Stamford Bridge could count themselves lucky if they emerged with anything other than a hiding. Indeed Benitez only won there once in 12 attempts during his time at Liverpool
Benitez's Chelsea, on the other hand, have lost to QPR and Swansea at home since he took over in November, but the 52-year-old claims he can put a stop to all the jeering and make Stamford Bridge a place teams dread visiting once more.
"It was always tough, always difficult when I went to Stamford Bridge (as Liverpool boss)," said Benitez, whose only home victory in the league was an 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa on December 23.
"We will try to make it the same. It was (like that) for Aston Villa. After that everyone was scared."
Due to Roberto Di Matteo's iconic status at the club, and Benitez's history with Liverpool, Chelsea's fans have never taken the Spaniard to heart despite his relatively successful reign at Anfield, where he won the Champions League in 2005.
The scale of barracking from the Chelsea support towards Benitez has intensified in recent weeks and the Blues supporters also appear to have lost faith in Fernando Torres after two years of unwavering support despite the striker's poor form in front of goal.
The crowd's animosity has led often led to a spiky atmosphere at the west London ground, and there is a good chance the fans will turn on Benitez and his men again should they not beat Arsenal on Sunday.
But Benitez on Friday denied the criticism from the stands was the reason behind his team's slump at home and chose instead to blame perceived negative tactics of visiting teams.
"The atmosphere doesn't affect the players. We are professionals and we concentrate on our job," Benitez added.
"If we win, I'm sure they'll be happy. It's a question of the tactics of other teams, if they're deep or not.
"Arsenal are a top team. They won't be 11 men behind the ball on the edge of the box waiting. It's a different kind of game."
The fact that Benitez has only been handed a contract until the end of the season suggests that Roman Abramovich will dispense with his services in June.
Pep Guardiola's decision to take up the reins at Bayern Munich has once again rekindled the curiosity about who will take over from Benitez in the summer, with Diego Simeone, Jurgen Klopp and Michael Laudrup the latest figures to be linked with the post.
Benitez would not be drawn on the effect Guardiola's appointment would have on his long-term future and insisted talk about who will manage the Blues next season is not affecting him.
"It's fine," Benitez said when asked about the speculation. "The only way to do your job properly is to carry on analysing the game, talking to people, and being up to date every day."
One man who can help dig Chelsea out of their current predicament is captain John Terry.
The former England skipper has not started a game since suffering knee ligament damage during November's clash with Liverpool, but he came off the bench at Stoke last weekend and could start on Sunday.
"I haven't decided if he will play," said Benitez, whose preparations have been hampered slightly by the blanket of snow that covered Chelsea's Cobham base this morning.
"The (training) pitch wasn't in the best condition, so training was a bit different.
"He's been training with the team and has been fine. We will decide (on Saturday) after the training session."