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Mar 11, 2013

Mikel: Rafa taunts not helping

John Obi Mikel has admitted that the anti-Rafa Benitez chants sung by Chelsea supporters are having a negative effect on the team.

• Blog: Chelsea invoke old values

Benitez has been targeted by Blues fans ever since he arrived at Stamford Bridge, and Sunday's 2-2 FA Cup quarter-final draw was no different.

The former Liverpool boss was taunted for his decision to substitute Frank Lampard and Victor Moses for Mikel and Eden Hazard in the second half at Old Trafford – a change that ultimately helped Chelsea fight back to earn a replay.

Mikel believes the criticism of Benitez is unfair and is affecting the players' performances on the pitch, as well as contributing to the team's recent poor form.

"Sometimes it doesn't help when the fans are not happy," he said. "When you give the ball away there is pressure. This is our job.

"Fans come to watch the football and we have a responsibility to pay them back and make sure we play well. Every game we try to do that, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"I have been here for seven years and they [the fans] are fantastic and have always supported us until the end. I hope that continues throughout the season. This is when we need them the most. Let's hope we can all go through the rest of the season together. Chelsea fans have always been great and I know they will continue to be great with the players."

The Nigeria international hopes that Chelsea's second-half comeback on Sunday will spur the team on to finish the remainder of the season strongly.

"I hope we can keep this character and momentum going but sometimes it's quite difficult when the season is going like this," he said.

"If you look at the team from last year, we liked to play, to attack, to move forward. We liked to have the ball, beat people and create chances and that's exactly what we did in the second half at United. Let's hope this game will put us back on a good track and we keep going on from here to end the season very well."

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