A round-up of news and views relating to Chelsea over the past 24 hours.
Chelsea will be without midfielder Yossi Benayoun for tomorrow’s match with West Brom at Stamford Bridge, but Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill have returned to the squad. Benayoun has an ankle injury, but Cahill and Azpilicueta have recovered from the issues that kept them out of the FA Cup match with Middlesbrough.
West Brom are without Romelu Lukaku, who cannot play against his parent club, and Shane Long is also a doubt for the Baggies. Goran Popov is also unavailable as he completes his three match ban for spitting at Kyle Walker. One man who could feature is 16 year old Izzy Brown, who has been included in their squad for the first time.
In the wake of his outburst following the FA Cup win in midweek, Rafa Benitez has insisted he has no problem with anyone at Chelsea, and his criticisms of the fans were designed to try and make them unite behind the team for the rest of the season:
“I will finish my contract until the end [in May] and I don't want to be a distraction. What I want to say to everyone is that if they concentrate and support the team, it will be easier."
Benitez also said that despite losing 2-0 to Manchester City last weekend, he believes that Chelsea can still claim second place in the Premier League. Chelsea are currently fourth, two points behind Tottenham Hotspur and seven behind City.
Current West Brom manager Steve Clarke, a favorite at Chelsea after his extended spell there as a coach, declined to comment on Benitez’s situation at Stamford Bridge, but did say he would like to manage the Blues one day.
Gianfranco Zola has said he is still in regular contact with plenty of people at Stamford Bridge, and indicated he believes he is a long term target for the managerial position at Chelsea. Zola has managed in the Premier League before with West Ham, but at the moment he says he is fully committed to current club Watford.
On HITC today, Dan Coombs asks whether Juan Mata is in danger of being overlooked in the player of the season awards, whilst Lewis runs through the pros and cons of appointing John Terry as player manager at the club. Also on the site Dan Colombini argues that Rafa Benitez should take more of the blame for the club’s bad run under his management.
image: © Jason Bagley