Chelsea fans to make WBA match hell for Benitez, Blues could turn to Poyet, Zola or Pellegrini, Spurs eye defender & two strikers

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “My relationship with the people at the club is really good. My relationship with club owner Roman Abramovich is very good. When I meet with him we talk about football, we talk like normal people and share our passion for football. The players are really happy in what we are trying to do. The atmosphere in the club is really good. There are no issues in the team.” – Rafa Benitez.

Runner-up: “Has he had a fair crack of it? If you are manager of a club like Chelsea you know what comes with the territory. Rafa Benitez was put in as manager to take the club until the end of the season and I’m sure that will happen… It’s too early to start connecting me with Chelsea. There’s a lot of managers that have probably got a better case than me. But if you’re asking if I want to be manager of a top team in the future, of course. If you don’t have that ambition to better yourself you shouldn’t be in the game. But it’s not for now. The connections are inevitable. I can’t do anything about that. Chelsea has been a big part of my life, I’ve spent more than 40 per cent of it connected with them.” – Steve Clarke.

Rafa’s Hell Awaits v West Brom 

Rafa Benitez should go now. If he’s at the West Brom game, it’ll be amazing (Nick Clark, Independent) We did not want him, his appointment proved as disastrous as feared, and the best thing for everyone is if we are all put out of our misery as quickly as possible. The writing is on the wall for Rafael Benitez after his extraordinary rant, and it is now a question of whether he goes before the summer. It will be an amazing decision if he is in the dug-out tomorrow. If Benitez thought the fans’ singing, slogans and signs all pointing him towards the exit door were bad at a midweek game away at Middlesbrough, just wait until Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

Hung out to dry: Chelsea will not ban anti-Benitez banners (Sam Wallace, Independent) Chelsea have decided not to confiscate supporters’ anti-Rafa Benitez banners brought to Saturday’s Premier League home game against West Bromwich Albion, which promises to be yet another combustible occasion as feelings run high among fans.

Welcome to hell: Rafa set for Stamford Bridge bearpit after insisting he has no regrets about attacking fans (Martin Lipton, Mirror) Fans on Chelsea message boards promised to intensify their campaign to evict the Spaniard after being given the green light by the club to bring anti-Benitez banners and placards into Stamford Bridge before the clash with Albion, managed by former Chelsea hero Steve Clarke. It threatens to be a firestorm, with Benitez having accused the supporters of “wasting their time” with the banners which have clearly angered him but will be allowed into the ground unless they are offensive or discriminatory.

Benitez On The Edge, But Hanging On

Rafael Benítez stays on but will face Chelsea fans’ rage on Saturday (Dominic Fifield, Guardian) While Chelsea are not minded at present to replace their temporary manager, who took up the reins only last November following the abrupt dismissal of Roberto Di Matteo, prior to the expiry of his contract at the end of the season, they are acutely aware of the necessity to qualify for the Champions League. Chelsea are two points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, having won only twice in six league outings, and the prolongation of that scrappy form will risk necessitating another change before the end of the campaign. Certainly defeat by West Bromwich, the side who effectively accounted for both André Villas-Boas and Di Matteo, would prompt immediate action.

Benitez walks alone: Chelsea boss left to face angry fans with fate in the balance (Neil Ashton, Mail) Roman Abramovich will review Rafa Benitez’s position as Chelsea’s interim manager after gauging supporter reaction at Saturday’s clash with West Bromwich… Abramovich is already considering his options after Benitez was called in for crisis talks with Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay at the training ground on Thursday. The owner is running out of short-term alternatives but Jose Mourinho, who turned down a return last summer, and Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini are under consideration for next season.

The fans will get their way… Benitez’s Chelsea reign was doomed from the start (Matt Barlow, Mail) Despite his trigger-happy reputation, he was not about to leave his team managerless ahead of Saturday’s game against West Bromwich Albion. For Benitez it is a stay of execution, although he can expect the volume of abuse from Chelsea fans to be amplified after his comments accused them of pursuing an agenda against him which has damaged the team.

Forget the Impossible Job, Chelsea are fast becoming the Impossible Club (Ollie Holt, Mirror) In his relatively measured way, Benitez was right anyway. The fans who have been booing him aren’t doing the club any favours. Sure, they might be about to succeed in their stated mission to drive him out but any chance they had of mounting a title challenge disappeared in the ferment. Chelsea’s fans are entitled to boo Benitez as much as they want. They are entitled to remember he was less than flattering about them when he was the manager of Liverpool. But they must accept their campaign to get him sacked has caused collateral damage and that that damage may yet result in the loss of a place in the top four.

It’s a comedy of errors at the Bridge (Steven Howard, Sun) Chelsea claimed it was business as usual yesterday — and they were right. An every-day situation where the most dysfunctional club in Europe blunder from one self-induced disaster to another… The bottom line is Benitez should never have been appointed. And, as I said, he should never have taken the job. Vanity does strange things to you.

Why I don’t blame Benitez for losing his rag with Chelsea fans (Robbie Savage, Mirror) Doomed from the start, Rafa Benitez never stood a chance at Chelsea. From the moment he walked out to all those banners, and that storm of booing, at home to Manchester City in November, the fans were determined not to like him. Finally, he lost his rag after the Cup tie at Middlesbrough – and I don’t blame him. Roman Abramovich did Benitez no favours by giving him the title interim manager.

Who Will Replace Rafa?

Do Chelsea have anywhere left to turn after Rafael Benítez? (Owen Gibson, Guardian) Even if Rafael Benítez does limp on until May, it is becoming harder to see where Roman Abramovich goes from there. A man used to being able to secure whatever he covets is potentially running out of options. After 10 years, 10 managers and £1bn of investment, the turbulence associated with the top job at Stamford Bridge has made a post once coveted by many of the biggest names in European football into a poisoned chalice.

Chelsea look at Gus Poyet and Gianfranco Zola for perfect 10th (Sam Wallace, Independent) Considering those range of options, Chelsea are not in a bad position, especially if Benitez can get them Champions League football next year. The board and the owner would, ideally, like a manager who can establish himself long-term – even if they have a funny way of showing it.

Did someone call for an engineer? Pellegrini has manual to fix broken Chelsea (Dominic King, Mail) If Pellegrini — Malaga’s current coach — succeeds Rafa Benitez at Chelsea, Roman Abramovich will be employing a man who values discipline and teamwork and, above anything else, wants his sides to play with panache and dash. While it is true Pellegrini, 59, does not have a rich history of winning trophies — he has collected only five titles from the 12 clubs he has managed — he has an impressive reputation, one that has seen him linked with a number of top posts.

Tottenham v Arsenal: Previews

How Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur compare ahead of the north London derby (Alan Smith, Telegraph) Both sides have had their ups and downs in this campaign, both sides want a Champions League place next season, but it is Spurs who may just have a slender edge over Arsenal in Sunday’s north London derby at White Hart Lane.

North London rivals in vile chants threat: Yobs will be ejected from White Hart Lane (Sami Mokbel, Mail) Spurs will use Sunday’s programme and their official website to warn fans they will take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to those found singing abusive songs, and fans who are caught doing so will be thrown out of the ground.

Transfer Lies

Arsenal join Spurs and Juventus in race to sign Sochaux defender Corchia (Mail) Arsenal have joined Tottenham and Juventus in monitoring Sochaux right-back Sebastien Corchia, 22. Arsenal are weighing up various targets, including Feyenoord’s Daryl Janmaat, as they look to replace Bacary Sagna who is expected to leave in the summer.

Tottenham line up Leandro Damiao and Eder to replace Emmanuel Adebayor (Tom Collomosse, Independent) Emmanuel Adebayor will be allowed to leave Tottenham this summer as Andre Villas-Boas lines up Leandro Damiao and Portugal forward Eder to replace the Togo striker.

Mancini wants £17m-rated Porto defender Mangala in summer swoop to bolster back line (Mail) Manchester City have added Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala to their list of transfer targets for the summer. The 22-year-old has been watched by Manchester United, Bayern Munich and AC Milan in recent months after a series of impressive performances while Arsenal have also followed his progress. Porto want £17.5m for the France U21 international and will sell this summer.

AVB’s 17m swoop for Eliaquim Mangala (Star) Tottenham are chasing £17m-rated defender Eliaquim Mangala as they prepare to ditch TWO centre-halves this summer.

Send for Sanchez! Manchester City join Liverpool in summer hunt for Barcelona outcast (Mirror) Manchester City have revived their interest in Barcelona winger Alexis Sanchez… Liverpool have also been linked with the 24-year-old but City’s guarantee of Champions League football has put them in pole position.

Earnshaw latest to move to MLS as he signs for Toronto (Mail) Wales international Robert Earnshaw has left Cardiff City and signed for MLS side Toronto FC.