CHELSEA manager Rafael Benitez has played down suggestions of a training ground bust-up with captain John Terry and admits he will have failed if the Blues miss out on a top three Premier League finish.
The Blues lost 2-0 to champions Manchester City on Sunday and a frank discussion between Benitez and his squad took place at their Surrey-based training facility on Monday, with Terry, an unused substitute at the Etihad Stadium, among those to voice his opinion.
But Benitez, whose team play Middlesbrough in tonight’s FA Cup fifth round tie, insists nothing out of the ordinary took place at Cobham.
“It was a normal meeting, nothing else,” he insisted. “It was a very brief exchange of ideas. It was just a team talk after a defeat.
“I can guarantee the players know what we are trying to do and believe in what we are trying to do. I can see the frustration of [John] Terry. It is normal for him to want to win.”
Champions League winners last season, Chelsea are still in the hunt for honours this term with the FA Cup and Europa League trophies up for grabs, however, Benitez will judge his indeterminate spell with the club based on their final league position.
His fourth-placed side are sandwiched between Tottenham and Arsenal in the Premier League, but the Spanish coach insists the Blues must finish above both London rivals, and has not given up on snatching second place from Manchester City.
“We finished sixth last year, so we have to finish in the top three [this season],” said Benitez. “I am here to be in the top three and do my best in every competition. We will try to be in the top three or top two, but it depends on Manchester City.”
Defenders Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta will miss tonight’s tie at the Riverside with a virus and leg injury respectively. Benitez will also run the rule over the fitness of Terry, who has recently returned to action after a long-term knee problem.