Rafael Benitez has refused to bow to pressure to apologise for his controversial comments about Chelsea as he prepared to run the gauntlet with their fans again.
Blues supporters this week called for their new manager to say “sorry” for what they perceive as criticism of them while he was in charge at Liverpool.
Benitez endured a savage reception upon his introduction as Chelsea manager in Sunday’s Barclays Premier League draw against Manchester City and fan groups have suggested there will be no let up in tonight’s west London derby with Fulham.
The chair of Chelsea Supporters’ Group said an apology would help win over some fans, but, as during his unveiling on Thursday, Benitez questioned the accuracy of some of the quotes attributed to him.
“The problem is we can analyse what I said and didn’t say,” he said. “We can’t be checking if it’s true or not. I’ll try my best to win their trust. That’s it.”
One comment that is beyond dispute is Benitez’s praise of the passion of Liverpool fans, which included a sideways dig at that of Chelsea supporters.
The quote has been immortalised at the Reds’ Melwood training ground and pressed on whether he would apologise for it, he said: “I was praising the fans of my club, my team.
“But I’m here now, it’s my club, and I will do my best for them. That’s my explanation, very easy and very simple. I will try to defend my club, and this is now my club.”
Elsewhere tonight, league leaders Manchester United entertain West Ham, and Old Trafford striker Wayne Rooney has urged his team-mates to pay special attention to Andy Carroll.
As a Liverpool player with an enormous price tag, Carroll is bound to get a frosty reception from the home fans this evening. However, after working alongside the 23-year-old at close quarters during Euro 2012, Rooney knows the reality of Carroll’s performances is nowhere near the perception many have of him.
The lanky forward will travel north with confidence high following his first goal of the season at Tottenham on Sunday. And Rooney has warned his United team-mates to be on their guard.
“Andy Carroll is a handful,” said the striker. “I am sure if you ask any defender, they find it difficult to play against someone like that who is good in the air and on the floor.
“He is physical and makes it hard for opponents. That type of player doesn’t always get all the goals, but they can cause trouble up front and create problems. I am sure that is what Sam Allardyce wants him to do.”
On a busy night of Premier League action, champions Manchester City travel to Wigan, in-form West Brom head to Swansea and Southampton take on Norwich. Newcastle visit Stoke, Tottenham play Liverpool at White Hart Lane, while Arsenal will have England winger Theo Walcott back from injury for the trip to Everton.