Oh, Rafa, what have you done? Three games, two points and one goal is not the way to enamour yourself to a public that openly despises you and just two weeks into his reign, Benitez already looks as though he is drowning as Chelsea manager.
When the former Liverpool boss was appointed there were plenty who said that it wouldn’t work out, but I was actually in the other camp: I thought a hungry, determined and raring-to-go Benitez had a point to prove and would be able to prove it at Stamford Bridge, bringing some defensive solidity and tactical nous to a side that had lost its way under Roberto Di Matteo.
But it looks as though I severely underestimated the hatred that Chelsea fans have for Benitez and whatever you think of his managerial credentials – and his record certainly seems to split opinions – the atmosphere around the club and the fact he is about as welcome as John Terry at Wayne Bridge’s house is going to make his job impossible to perform.
I knew there would be Chelsea supporters opposed to his appointment, but I did not expect the vitriol that the Champions League winner has been subjected to, most of which has shown Blues fans in a very poor light indeed, especially when many of the things that Benitez is meant to have said have either been fabricated or embellished and swallowed whole by a media who should know better.
But that is where we are and Benitez is fighting a battle he cannot win. The widespread reports that the ex-Valencia boss is looking for the help of John Terry and Frank Lampard in transmitting his ideas to the rest of the squad – who on earth would trust Terry? – show that he is already desperately scratching around for help.
In truth, he needs to help himself, and goalless draws at home to Manchester City and Fulham were an inconspicuous enough start before the second-half collapse at Upton Park condemned his side to a 3-1 defeat against West Ham United and put the pressure on before he’s even had a chance to hang his picture of Dirk Kuyt on the wall of his office.
His next task is to try to salvage Chelsea’s Champions League campaign and avoid the ignominy of being the first defending champions to be dumped out at the group stage.
The situation is clear: Chelsea must beat Nordsjælland at Stamford Bridge and hope that Shakhtar Donetsk do them a favour by beating Juventus in Ukraine. How likely the latter is I would doubt, but Chelsea can only do their bit.
Odds of 9/100 say they should be doing it with ease and no side should, as the Danish champions are, be at a price of 19/1 to win a Champions League match (the draw is 35/4). But that shows how easy Chelsea should have it and Benitez cannot afford to slip up here: you shudder to think about the reaction should Shakhtar help Chelsea out and the Blues fail to beat the group no-hopers.
The latter won’t happen, but it might not be the easy night that it really should be. Confidence is low and the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge is hostile, angry and confused, and I don’t think it is going to be a goalfest.
Chelsea have scored just one goal under Benitez, after all, and although they shouldn’t be troubled in defence, I think it will be harder than people expect, so the 13/10 that the Blues win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 looks like the value shout.