Football: Rafael Benitez leads Chelsea into a crucial clash at Everton on Sunday and is ready for a less than cordial welcome at Goodison Park.
Benitez famously provoked the ire of the Toffees in 2007 when, as then-Liverpool manager, he referred to Everton as a “small club.”
And, given that the former Reds chief is hardly revered by Chelsea supporters, Benitez faces the possibility of coming under fire from all four stands during the contest.
Everton fans devised plenty of unpleasant chants about Benitez during his six years at Anfield and he said: “I don’t think they will be supporting me the whole time but the main thing for me is that my players do their job.”
The Spaniard, who still lives on the Wirral near Liverpool, added: “I have a good relationship with people in the city and what I expect is to find a manager up there with a team who want to win.”
Quizzed about his small-club jibe ahead of the game, Benitez joked: “You have a good memory.”
He added of Everton: “I think they are doing a good job. They are doing well, they have less resources than other teams and are still competing.
“They are near the top of the table so credit to them.”
David Moyes’s side lie just two points behind third-placed Chelsea and head into the contest having beaten Chelsea in their last three meetings at Goodison.
But with Benitez having led the Blues to six wins in their last seven — sparking reports that Chelsea want to offer him the manager’s job on a permanent basis — the game could prove a fascinating encounter.
Everton midfielder Darron Gibson faces a late fitness test while right-back Seamus Coleman could also return after a knock, but midfielder Marouane Fellaini completes a three-match ban and defender Tony Hibbert (hamstring) and striker Kevin Mirallas (calf) are out.
Benitez may recall midfielder Ramires after his recovery from a knee problem, though the game is set to come too soon for defender John Terry (knee).
Sunday's other match sees Benitez’s former side Liverpool seek to banish their Boxing Day blues as they travel to basement outfit QPR.
Forward Luis Suarez is expected to play despite nursing an ankle injury while Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen are pushing for recalls after being dropped for the last two matches.
For the hosts, Rs veteran defender Ryan Nelsen (virus) is a doubt for the clash, as are goalkeeper Julio Cesar (back), full-back Nedum Onuoha (hamstring) and midfielder Park Ji Sung (knee).
The most enticing of tomorrow's fixtures sees Arsenal host Newcastle and Gunners chief Arsene Wenger is likely to recall striker Olivier Giroud and midfielder Tomas Rosicky after the pair recovered from illness.
Meanwhile Toon chief Alan Pardew faces a new selection headache with the return of midfielder Cheick Tiote from a one-match ban tempered by the absence of counterpart Vurnon Anita (ankle).
Midfield trio Jonas Gutierrez (knee), Yohan Cabaye (groin) and Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) are also out, as are stoppers Mike Williamson (suspension) and Steven Taylor (hamstring).