Benitez braced for Everton jeers
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez is expecting a barrage of jeers when the Blues travel to Goodison Park on Sunday and he has riled the Everton faithful even more by failing to rule out a possible return to Liverpool in the future.
Benitez makes his first trip to Liverpool as a manager for the first time since he was sacked by the Reds two and a half years ago and he is prepared for a frosty reception from their Merseyside rivals.
Everton's disdain towards Benitez harbours from the Spaniard claiming the Toffees had a "small club mentality" before a number of altercations with David Moyes, particularly following the 1-1 FA Cup draw in 2009.
But Benitez was much more levelled in his evaluation of Everton's current status ahead of Sunday's match and he remained coy when asked if he would ever return to Anfield as manager.
"At the moment, I'm really pleased here," he said. "I want to keep winning and you never know what can happen in football.
"I have a very good relationship with the fans and the city but I'm a good professional and that means I will give 100% for this club. It is always something special when you go back to Liverpool. My connection with the city is very strong."
Benitez's family remain in Merseyside despite his move to Inter Milan and the recent appointment at Chelsea.
The interim manager is careful not to underestimate a flourishing Everton side that could jump ahead of Chelsea with a win and he is hoping the high stakes will overshadow his personal tension with both sets of fans.
"What I can say is that Everton are doing well," Benitez said. "I don't think it is fair for me to talk about one [set of fans] or the other one. I think it is fair for me to say that we are playing Everton and they are doing well.
"Moyes is doing a great job, they have good players and a good team spirit and it will be difficult for us. What happens inside the ground will happen but one thing I will say is that, in England, football is something special."
Moyes also poured water over his supposed rift with Benitez, insisting the 52-year-old has earned his second spell in the Premier League.
"I've got no problems at all. I'm fine with Rafa," Moyes said. "I have met him many times over the years. He has always come to Goodison with really good teams and he is coming with another really good team this time. Facing Rafa was always tough because Liverpool had great teams and it was very hard to get the best of them.
"It was hard to win many games against him. Like a lot of people coming into this country, I think he always wanted to be in the Premier League. He enjoyed his stint here on Merseyside. He enjoyed the honesty of the Premier League. He bided his time for another job and he has got it. I wouldn't say there's more incentive [to beat Chelsea] with it being him."
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.