Football: Rafa Benitez has rejected reports that he has fallen out with key players at Chelsea.
The Spaniard, whose side take on Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round tomorrow, reportedly shared a heated exchange with his squad, led by captain John Terry, following Sunday’s Premier League defeat to Manchester City.
However the former Liverpool manager said today that he has a “fantastic” relationship with his players.
“This was a normal meeting between players and technical staff, which happens after every game, it was normal talk, nothing else. You show your disappointment, that is normal,” Benitez said.
“I can understand the frustrations of Terry, he is an important player for us and has been injured with his knee.
“It was very brief exchange of ideas, and that is it, nothing else. It is just a team talk after a defeat.
“We had a meeting on the pitch with my players and technical staff, which is part of our business.
“Now we have to move on and start thinking about Middlesbrough.”
Asked about his relationship with the Chelsea players, Benitez said: “It is fantastic. I have no problem."
For now, Benitez said his aim was for the club to end the campaign positively, having seen his side slip to fourth in the table following Tottenham’s victory at West Ham on Monday night.
“They are a good group of players, working hard and keen to learn. They were disappointed like me with the defeat, but that’s it,” he said.
“(We want to finish in the) top three, it is really important for us but, being a top side, we have to try and win every game. Middlesbrough were doing really well, but they have also had some games with problems.
“They have a good manager and a good team. They will give everything in the FA Cup, so it will be difficult.”
Centre-back Gary Cahill has a virus, while full-back Cesar Azpilicueta has “discomfort in his leg,” so Benitez will have to make some adjustments in defence.
Terry played for the Blues against Sparta Prague in their Europa League last-32 second-leg clash last week, but Benitez warned the former England skipper must continue to be carefully managed.
“He had the plan before and we have to decide (what is best),” Benitez said.
“He was training (today) and could finish the training session today, so he could play (at Middlesbrough).”
Middlesbrough will be missing ineligible trio Josh McEachran, Kieron Dyer and Sammy Ameobi.
Lukas Jutkiewicz (ankle) and Jonathan Woodgate (calf) are also out.