Benitez keeps peace as Chelsea make last 16

Rafael Benitez played the peacemaker as Chelsea thrashed Brentford 4-0 to reach the FA Cup fifth round despite a series of off-field distractions.

Benitez has endured a stormy time at Stamford Bridge since replacing Roberto Di Matteo in November and there seems no end in sight to the list of problems for the beleaguered Spaniard.

While League One minnows Brentford were eventually dispatched in emphatic fashion on Sunday thanks to second half goals from Juan Mata, Oscar, Frank Lampard and John Terry, it was the continuing soap opera surrounding the manager and two of his key players that hogged the limelight.

Benitez finally restored Terry to the starting line-up after several weeks of confusion over the fitness of Chelsea's captain, who believed he was ready to return from a knee injury while his boss wasn't so sure.

A report on Sunday claimed Benitez and Terry had become embroiled in a furious row after the Spaniard allegedly blamed his key defender for two of Newcastle's goals in a defeat at St James' Park.

But Benitez moved to quash that accusation and then set about answering the latest questions about both his own future and that of England midfielder Lampard, who scored his 199th goal for the club but has yet to be offered an extension to the contract which expires at the end of the season.

"We were surprised today with some comments," said Benitez when asked about the Terry story.

"It's totally rubbish. We didn't have any problem. We were talking about football with the team. He was training and we had normal conversations. Everything was fine. I was really surprised."

Terry agreed with his manager, adding: "I read those stories in the paper but it is completely lazy journalism. It's total rubbish."

The situation with Lampard is equally complicated.

Benitez admitted early in his reign he had been told the 34-year-old would be released at the end of his contract, but Lampard's form has been so strong and the protests from Chelsea's fans so vociferous that Blues owner Roman Abramovich may yet change his mind.

"Every time I will keep the same answer. He is doing well, scoring goals and hopefully he can score another 15 until the end. That will be good for everyone," Benitez said of the impasse over Lampard's future.

Lampard and Terry are of course assured of being feted as Chelsea legends whenever they do eventually depart, but Benitez is facing a fight just to see out the rest of his short-term deal until the end of the season.

After being snubbed by Pep Guardiola, who has committed himself to Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp, Abramovich has reportedly turned his attentions to Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini.

Abramovich was at the Bridge as Chelsea saw off Brentford to set up a fifth round trip to Middlesbrough, with the winners of that delayed tie due to face Manchester United or Reading in the quarter-finals.

But the Russian hasn't spoken to Benitez for several weeks, fuelling further questions about Benitez's grip on his job, although the former Liverpool manager refused to be drawn on the situation.

"I don't know what he thought because I was concentrating on the game," Benitez said. "I don't know if he came to the dressing room because I'm here with the press. We will see if I see him later."

  • COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more Sat, Apr 19, 2014
    COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more

    Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are … Continue reading →

  • Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future Sat, Apr 19, 2014
    Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future

    It’s more than just its inherent speed, or the whooshing noise that fills the cabin like a school choir jamming with James Hetfield. It’s what it represents in an industry full of skeptics. It’s a portal into the future – a time capsule left by some mad scientist born decades too soon. It’s something that shouldn’t exist. And yet it does.

  • COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more
    COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more

    Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are … Continue reading →

  • 5 Unanswered Questions About Jesus
    5 Unanswered Questions About Jesus

    As Christians worldwide gather for Easter to celebrate their belief in the death and rebirth of Jesus, researchers continue to delve into the mysteries that surround the man. The following are five questions about Jesus that, for now, at least, remain unanswered. In 2008, astronomer Dave Reneke argued that the Star of Bethlehem (a celestial event long associated with Jesus' birth) may have been Venus and Jupiter coming together to form a bright light in the sky. Other researchers have claimed that a similar conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter occurred in October of 7 B.C. Still others have claimed that Jesus was born in the spring, based on stories about shepherds watching over their flocks in fields on the night of Jesus' birth — something they would have done in the spring, not the winter.