Juan Mata defends Rafael Benitez ahead of Europa League clash

It’s been a rocky road for Rafael Benitez since he arrived at Stamford Bridge as interim manager, with the supporters voicing their disquiet for the Spaniard from the word go.

Juan Mata defends Rafael Benitez ahead of Europa League clash

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May 2nd, 2013

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Benitez has done reasonably well since replacing Roberto Di Matteo and could end the campaign with silverware after Chelsea won 2-1 at Basel in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash.

Arguably the team’s star performer this season has been Juan Mata and the midfielder claims that there is a united dressing room behind Benitez despite talk of dressing room rifts.

He said: “Rafa has had great seasons at every club he has been at. Since he came here, he’s tried to do his best.

“For me and the rest of the players, he’s a great manager. We are fighting for third place in the league and with a chance to win a trophy.

“So maybe the season in the end will look good for us and maybe for Rafa. And that will be because of the job he has done.

“Whether he is given more time or not doesn’t depend on me. All I can say is that we are all working really, really well with Rafa.”

Mata is wary of Basel’s threat despite Chelsea holding a 2-1 first leg advantage, with the Swiss side having scored twice at White Hart Lane in the previous round.

“It’s going to be a dangerous game,” he said. “Even though we have two goals away, a great result, it’s that kind of game that can be very risky.

“If we don’t go into the game thinking about winning, thinking about defending well, thinking about trying to win again, it’s going to be difficult.

“We still know we have to fight if we’re going to be in the final. We got a great result in Switzerland, but now we have to play another 90 minutes and I’m sure they’re not going to give up. They’re a team who try until the end. It will be tough, for sure.”

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