Success at Chelsea would be bittersweet for Benitez

How can a man actively despised by large sections of his team’s support possibly lead the side to glory?  More importantly, why would he even want to?

This is the job Rafael Benitez has recently been appointed after becoming Roberto Di Matteo’s successor at Stamford Bridge.  Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich continued his trend of showing managers the exit door, despite the former West Brom boss guiding the Blues on their way to becoming FA Cup and Champions League winners last season.

Di Matteo’s departure led to worldwide criticism of the Russian billionaire, whose reputation for sacking managers could not prevent worldwide disbelief at the axing of his latest victim.  Most significantly though was the unhappiness of Chelsea fans, who were still fully behind the Italian after his European triumph.  Whoever Abramovich brought in to replace him would have a hard task of convincing the Stamford Bridge faithful that he deserved the job more than Di Matteo.  Rafael Benitez, however, never stood a chance.

The former Liverpool manager has history with the club, as the Reds’ frequent battles with Chelsea whilst he was in charge at Anfield resulted in a bitter rivalry between the teams.  Benitez was opposed by Blues fans from the second he was confirmed as their new boss, with many in the crowd at his first match at Stamford Bridge displaying signs declaring that they were and always would be unhappy with his appointment.  The Spanish coach endured the hostile reception as his side saw out a 0-0 draw against champions Manchester City, whilst a second consecutive home game saw an identical result against West London rivals Fulham.

With no goals scored and no goals conceded, Benitez headed to Upton Park to face one of Chelsea’s most bitter rivals West Ham.  Despite finally getting off the mark and taking the lead with a Juan Mata strike, the Hammers bounced back in the second half and turned the game on its head, earning themselves their first victory over the club since 2003.

He may have only signed a deal until the end of the season but, out of the Champions League and falling behind in the Premier League title race, what has Rafael Benitez got to play for?