LONDON – Rafael Benitez can boost his standing among the Chelsea fans skeptical about his appointment as interim manager by masterminding a victory over unbeaten leaders Manchester City in the Premier League tomorrow.
Report By Reuters
Benitez is not the only new manager in charge this weekend. Mark Hughes was fired by QPR yesterday ahead of their game against Manchester United today. Assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki have been put in temporary charge.
“This decision has been taken after careful consideration by the Board of
Directors, following numerous meetings over the last few days,” a QPR statement read.
“The Board of Directors wish to thank Mark for his commitment, hard work and dedication in his 10 months in charge.
“Mark has shown integrity and professionalism throughout his time here, but ultimately the circumstances we find ourselves in have left the Board of Directors with very little choice but to make a change.”
After nearly two years out of management, Benitez was brought in Wednesday to replace the fired Roberto Di Matteo with Chelsea’s league challenge faltering and a successful defence of its Champions League title looking unlikely.
A lot has changed since Benitez last worked in the Premier League – the final game of his six-year stint at Liverpool was in May 2010 – and that includes the emergence of big-spending City as a force.
After winning the title last season, City have climbed back to the top of the standings and are four points ahead of third-place Chelsea going into the match at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United, who were toppled by City after a surprise 1-0 loss at Norwich last Saturday, host last-place Queens Park Rangers (QPR).
City’s first loss of last season came at Chelsea, and if the European champions can repeat those exploits 11 months ago, Benitez would go a long way to convincing those supporters who doubt whether his hiring until the end of the season is an upgrade from Di Matteo.
“Rafa Benitez is a great coach,” Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata said. “He’s got lots of experience and won a lot of trophies with Liverpool, taking them to a very high level. He knows the Premier League, too.”
Benitez’s first dilemma is whether to recall misfiring striker Fernando Torres, who was dropped by Di Matteo for the 3-0 loss at Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday. Benitez and Torres enjoyed a strong working relationship at Liverpool, with the striker arguably producing the best form of his career.
Benitez also has to shore up a leaky defence that is still missing injured captain John Terry, at a time when City’s attack seems to have clicked.
The defending champions thrashed Aston Villa 5-0 last weekend and created enough chances late in the 1-1 draw against Real Madrid on Wednesday to have scraped a win that would have kept its qualification hopes alive.
Argentina striker Sergio Aguero has scored in each of his past four matches after a low-key start to the campaign, while Carlos Tevez has netted six times already in the league, looking a different player to the one that spent most of last season on strike.
“A very important factor is the fact I have all my family here in Manchester, which makes me very happy,” Tevez said. – Reuters