Chelsea crisis? Rafa Benitez in bust-up with senior players
Interim manager and John Terry clash as defeat to Man City leaves Blues in Champions League fight
THINGS appear to be going from bad to worse for Chelsea after reports emerged of a training-ground bust-up between the unpopular interim manager Rafa Benitez and veteran defender John Terry in the wake of the Blues' defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.
The 2-0 reverse combined with Spurs' win over West Ham on Monday has seen Chelsea slip to fourth place in the table and they are now just two points clear of Arsenal in fifth, with their hopes of Champions League qualification in doubt.
Benitez, who was drafted in as manager after the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo earlier in the season, has been a divisive figure at Stamford Bridge. He is hated by many Chelsea fans because of his ties to Liverpool and has failed to bring about a discernible improvement in the club's form or revitalise the fortunes of £50m misfit Fernando Torres.
Lurid tabloid reports of a bust-up between Terry and Benitez earlier this month proved wide of the mark, but it seems as though the press have now got their wish. The Daily Mail reports that Benitez called the squad into a huddle before training on Monday to discuss what had gone wrong against City.
"The Spaniard told his players that their attitude had cost a series of managers the sack, then lectured them on their failure to grasp tactics and a lack of effort," reported the paper. "But interim manager Benitez was stunned when one senior player suggested he might be at fault, given the club's success in winning the European Cup last May."
It was then that Terry stepped in, and the Mail added: "A discussion that began with the best of intentions then descended into a heated discussion between the players and the interim coach."
A gleeful Sun, which apologised over reports of an earlier rift, called the "bust up" an "alarming development" for Chelsea.
The Daily Telegraph was more measured. "Sources insist that the manager has not lost the dressing-room, but he looks increasingly isolated as pressure to regain a place in the Champions League grows," the paper said.
Things do not bode well for Benitez and his squad. "His tenure will be judged on whether he can secure a return to the Champions League – and performances as sloppy as the one on Sunday are undermining that challenge," warned The Guardian. ·