LONDON (AFP) – Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech says Rafael Benitez must be given a chance to make his mark at the club, ahead of a potentially stormy Premier League derby with local rivals Fulham on Wednesday.
Benitez can only hope the club’s dissenting supporters eventually accept him, although the evidence of the new interim manager’s first game in charge suggests that is unlikely to happen soon.
Benitez will take charge of his second game since succeeding Roberto Di Matteo when Fulham visit Stamford Bridge, three days after Chelsea were held to a scoreless home draw by Premier League champions Manchester City.
The Spaniard wasD given an early indication during that game of the depth of resentment held towards him by some of the club’s fans, who have not forgiven him for his role in the intense rivalry that has existed between Chelsea and Benitez’s former club, Liverpool.
Some supporters have suggested the protests will continue, ensuring another difficult atmosphere for the home side as they attempt to revive their flagging season.
“I think there’ll always be a resentment,” said Tim Rolls, a shareholder in Chelsea Pitch Owners, the fan-led group that owns the freehold of the Chelsea ground.
“If he has a lot of success in winning games, then I think there’s likely to be a solemn acceptance, but the supporters aren’t going to sing his name.”
Chelsea’s performance against City offered few distractions and Benitez will expect an improvement when his side confront the club’s near neighbours and attempt to revive their title ambitions.
Lying fourth, five points behind leaders Manchester United, Chelsea can ill afford to drop points and Cech admits they cannot afford a bedding in period.
“We, as players, need to adapt quickly and start thinking positively in order to work with the manager and give him what he needs to help get results,” he said.
“We need to put things right. We got a good point (against City), and hopefully on Wednesday we’ll win our game and push on from there.
“(Benitez) is here to change things, to put us in a winning mode, and he needs to be given a chance.”
Cech insists there were positives to be drawn from Chelsea’s display against City.
“We’ve been on a spell where we haven’t been winning games and we’ve been losing, so we wanted to stop that,” he said.
“We played the champions, it was an interesting performance in a way, but we kept a clean sheet and, at times, we were a danger, so it was a good start.
“It’s never easy when a new manager comes in because he doesn’t have time to work, so it’s good to start with a positive result.”
Fulham will attempt to claim a first win at Stamford Bridge in 33 years on the back of successive defeats and a run of five games without a win.
That has left them in mid-table after an enterprising start to the season and they will again be without influential centre-back Brede Hangeland, who serves the second game of a three-match ban after being sent off against Sunderland.
Fulham manager Martin Jol felt his side had been overwhelmed by Stoke City’s physical presence in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat, but the Cottagers will be presented with a different type of test when they face Benitez’s team.
“A few weeks ago I was there, and I saw Chelsea against Juventus. It was my first time at Stamford Bridge and it was a good game,” said Sascha Riether, the Fulham right back.
“I thought, ‘Yes, soon you will play there.’ It will be my first time playing there and I hope we get a good result.
“I’m not really aware yet of how big a game it is for Fulham, but it’s nice to know we will be big heroes if we win there.
“Every game is special, but if it’s a derby, it’s a little bit more.”