Ahead of Chelsea FC’s trip to Anfield, Brendan Rodgers believes former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez deserves a warm reception when he returns to Anfield this weekend. Benitez managed the Merseyside club for six years, winning the 2005 European Champions League in that space of time.
Prior to kick- off, Rafa has admitted that Sunday’s return to Anfield will be an emotional occasion. It will be the first time the Chelsea boss, whose family still live in Wirral, has managed a team at Anfield since leaving Liverpool in 2010.
Rodgers who took over from Kenny Dalglish as manager last year is sure that Benitez will get a big welcome on his return.
“Rafa Benitez deserves a great welcome because of the great work that he did here,” Rodgers said. “It’s a club with supporters who are brilliant, very respectful.
“They still sing Kenny’s name and rightly so. He’s a legend at the club as a footballer and as a manager. They sing about the players. And I’m sure Rafa Benitez will get a great reception.”
On the eventuality of sitting as a club manager and having your own supporters cheering the visiting boss, Rodgers has this to say:
“It won’t be strange in any way at all. For me, the focus is purely on the job of improving the team.”
However Liverpool has failed to feature in a Champions League match since December 2009 and are not likely to be there next season, as the lie 10 points adrift the Premier League’s fourth and final qualification spot with five matches to go. Rodgers is aware that having the fans at Anfield sing his name will require him to build a Liverpool side once again capable of qualifying for the Champions League.
But he insists he will not let the club’s trophy- laden history weigh him down in his attempt to make them successful again.
“It’s very easy for me to appreciate, because it was one of the key reasons for me coming here- the great history of the club. Of course, when there’s that expectation, that puts a whole different pressure, and what we look to do with the players is try to relieve that pressure.
“It’s a club who hope to be there. But if you put too much pressure on arriving there, then it becomes even more difficult. The history is the history, and it’s an incredible history. This is one of the biggest football clubs in the world.
“But I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat again: You can’t be held hostage by it. You’ve got to chip away and be the best you can be. And we’ll do that knowing we’ve got an incredible support base to back us all the way.”