Outgoing Benitez confident over future

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez is confident he will not be out of work for long as he seeks to conclude his short-term contract at Stamford Bridge on a high.

Rafa Benitez

As he prepares to make a first return to Liverpool as an opposing manager, Benitez was asked about his personal future. Will he be in football next season?

"Yes, for sure," he said. "Yes, 100%."

Asked if he has had offers, Benitez was coy, insisting winning at Anfield was his sole focus. He is a professional, he said, and despite leading Liverpool to their fifth European Cup in six successful years, three points for the Blues on Sunday is all that matters.

"A coach or manager has to concentrate on winning games and then your agent can talk to people," he added.

"I prefer just to talk about what I'm doing now and what I want to do on Sunday."

He was questioned directly over whether he would be interested in staying at Stamford Bridge, if given the option.

"I have a contract until the end of the season," he said.

"If I say 'yes' we'll have another... Someone will maybe interpret it in a different way. "I don't want to create a situation that might destabilise where we are at the moment.

"At the moment we are so close to the end of the season and we have so many important games and I have to concentrate on games."

Due to his prior association with Liverpool, Benitez was an unpopular appointment amongst Chelsea fans and this resistance may make a permanent appointment nigh-on impossible.

Yet since the Spaniard made an impassioned plea for the fans to spend their energies supporting the team, rather than barracking him, the tide of vitriol has retreated.

So much so that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Benitez could stay beyond the end of his current short-term contract.

When Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck revealed he was "completely open minded" about the managerial vacancy, that was interpreted as opening the door to a return for Jose Mourinho, but it could also point to Benitez as a contender.

Finishing third behind champions-elect Manchester United and 2012 winners Manchester City, coupled with victory in the Europa League - where Basle are Chelsea's last-four opponents - would certainly boost Benitez's options for next term.

Victory at Liverpool is important for Chelsea to enhance their position in the Champions League qualification places.

The Blues last claimed back-to-back Premier League wins in December and need to finish with a flourish to hold off Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton.

Fernando Torres could be key in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Torres moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for £50million in January 2011, but has still to rediscover the form which made him a fearsome opponent at Anfield.

The Spanish World Cup winner has shown glimpses of late, but his last league goal came before Christmas.

This can in part be explained by the need to play Torres in the Europa League, as Demba Ba is ineligible in the competition.

That may mean Ba is preferred to Torres on Sunday, with Switzerland in mind.

Torres has scored four times in the last three Europa League matches and showed signs of his old sharpness.

He has been doing specific work with fitness coach Paco de Miguel and shooting exercises with Benitez's assistants Boudewijn Zenden and Steve Holland.

"He's coming back to his level and you can see his contribution for the team every game is even better and bigger," Benitez said.

One might assume Benitez looked at the fixture list to see when the encounter with Liverpool would take place when he was appointed.

But given Chelsea's schedule he has barely had time to pause for breath.

The match comes in the week of his 53rd birthday and the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Benitez is uncertain if he will acknowledge the expected acclaim from Liverpool's supporters as he must focus on the task in hand.

"I think everybody will understand," he said.

"I will try and achieve my targets. Afterwards I will wish them the best, but during the game I have to make sure we win."

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