Football: Benitez wants end to Chelsea home sickness

AFP News18 January 2013

Rafael Benitez insisted Friday criticism of him by Chelsea fans had nothing to do with the European champions' poor recent record at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues have managed just two wins -- albeit high-scoring victories -- in seven home matches in all competitions under Benitez, repeatedly jeered by Chelsea supporters unhappy a man who had his run-ins with the Blues during his time as Liverpool manager replaced sacked fans' favourite Roberto di Matteo.

Chelsea's most recent attempt to gain some much needed home comfort ended in disappointing fashion as they squandered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at home to lowly Southampton on Wednesday -- a result that all but ended the London club's hopes of winning the Premier League title this season.

Now interim Chelsea manager Benitez wants Stamford Bridge to regain the 'fortress' reputation it had when he was at Liverpool and Jose Mourinho was in charge of the Blues.

"It was always tough, always difficult when I went to Stamford Bridge (as Liverpool boss)," said Benitez, whose only home league victory so far at Chelsea was the 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."

Benitez insisted much of Chelsea's patchy home form was down to the defensive approach of away teams, a problem he did not foresee arising when London rivals Arsenal came to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

"The atmosphere doesn't affect the players. We are professionals and we concentrate on our job," Benitez said. "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."

Rather than the Spaniard becoming the latest managerial casualty of billionaire Roman Abramovich's Stamford Bridge reign after Wednesday's match, it was his Southampton counterpart, Nigel Adkins, who was sacked on Friday despite a draw that took the south coast club three points clear of the relegation zone.

Adkins was replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, formerly the manager of Espanyol and a man Benitez knows well from his time in Spain.

Benitez, like many within English football, was taken aback by the timing of Adkins's sacking.

"I am really surprised because he was doing a great job," he said. "I'm very surprised. Pochettino has been in Spain for years, and did well at Espanyol. He's a good manager, but I'm disappointed that a manager has lost his job."

And Benitez warned Pochettino of the difficulties of adjusting to top-flight football in England.

"It's very difficult at the beginning," he added. "You need to know the structure, the referees, the other managers' tactics, your own players.

"In Spain you can be very good at tactics and manage teams your way. In England you have to adapt. It's a question of time.

"I don't like to see any manager, especially Nigel Adkins who was doing a great job, lose his job but I cannot talk about the decisions of the people in charge there (Southampton)."