If Chelsea can overcome Steaua Bucharest in tonight’s Europa League home tie, it leaves them well placed to repeat a European and domestic cup double again this season.
Whilst most will be quick to point out the Europa League is by no means the Champions League that Chelsea held aloft last year, it should still be seen as some achievement to what has been an eventful season to say the least.
For Rafa Benitez he can leave his ‘interim’ job title, with a possible two additional trophies on his CV and be the second ‘interim’ manager to do so in less than a year. It has perhaps been Benitez’s toughest job to date, the fans have shown on numerous occasions their dislike for a man that once managed a Liverpool side that knocked them out of the Champions League twice.
Supposedly brought in to get the best out of Fernando Torres, it seemed to work at first as Torres started to perform better and then goals coupled the good performances, that did not last however and when Chelsea signed Demba Ba in January, it left an ominous outlook for the 28-year-old from Madrid. Rumours have started to circulate as to where next for Torres -two clubs linked are Anzhi Makhachkala and Torres’ former club Atletico Madrid.
News of internal struggles and disagreements with captain John Terry has hampered the Chelsea camp, which Benitez was quick to quash, haven’t helped make life for Benitez any easier. He himself went on a rant in regards to his ‘interim’ title and criticising the Chelsea faithful for not getting behind their team.
For a manager who already lacked support from the Chelsea fans, this was another outburst that he could have done without. Chelsea fans cannot wait to see the back of the Spaniard, yet it will be interesting to see what reaction the club and fans has if Benitez could deliver two trophies.
With a win over Steaua tonight and a replay in the FA Cup now scheduled for April 1 at Stamford Bridge, against League leaders Manchester United, the fixtures are beginning to pile up for Benitez and his Chelsea team, as they still try to finish in a lucrative Champions League spot in the Premier League.
One thing is for certain, the merry go round that is the Chelsea manager’s job will see a new face in the seat come August - many believing Jose Mourinho is to become the 11th manager under Roman Abramovich’s, (he was also Abramovich’s second manager, back in 2004). Yet maybe Champions League quarter-finalists Malaga’s Coach, Manuel Pellegrini could be the new face in charge. What we can say is that Abramovich can be full of surprises.
For Benitez then, if he can guide Chelsea to at the very least one of the trophies and a Champions League spot, he can perhaps leave with his head held high and with his reputation firmly left intact.
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