Benitez starts with City, Wenger hails Fergie
Rafael Benitez could receive a baptism of fire as Chelsea's new manager as the Blues prepare to face defending Premier League champions Manchester City. The former Liverpool and Inter Milan boss was yesterday handed the reins at Stamford Bridge in a controversial appointment as interim manager following Roberto Di Matteo's sacking.
The Spaniard is now beginning the challenge of winning over both his new club's players and fans in the few days before meeting Roberto Mancini's City, who will be approaching the league with intent after crashing out of the Champions League last night.
Benitez told Sky Sports News: "You know, the fans they always want the same as the manager, to win games and to win titles." The 52-year-old said he would take "one game at a time" but was confident of delivering. He added: "I think it is a top side. You can challenge for trophies when you are in a top side."
City, meanwhile, must quickly put their European disappointment exit behind them as they prepare to face one of their title rivals. City's home 1-1 draw with Real Madrid condemned them to elimination before the knockout stages for a second successive season.
Mancini has also been left waiting on the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, who could be doubtful for the trip to Stamford Bridge with a knee injury. Kompany was hurt in a challenge with Cristiano Ronaldo ten minutes from time but battled through to full-time before undergoing lengthy treatment in the dressing room.
Elsewhere, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has led the tributes to great rival Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of the long-serving Manchester United manager's latest honour. United are to mark the Scot's phenomenally successful 26 years in charge at Old Trafford by unveiling a statue of the 70-year-old outside the stand that already bears his name on Friday ahead of Saturday's visit by QPR.
Wenger has had many close duels with Ferguson during his own remarkable 16 years with the Gunners but still holds his old adversary in the highest regard and expects United to struggle to replace him. The Frenchman said: "I don't remember anybody else being at the top, top level for such a long time.
"In some ways it is scary as well because you think when this guy leaves the club, no matter of the quality of who comes in after him, it will be a huge hole. He has to be immortal so the club doesn't suffer. His commitment is always there, you never feel that his commitment is weakened.
"It is a job where you need to dedicate your life to football and Ferguson has done that and that deserves massive respect. He has won absolutely everything and, of course, that is something exceptional."
Arsenal reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for a 13th consecutive season after they beat Montpellier 2-0 last night and are now preparing to take on Aston Villa. Elsewhere, Everton will look to get back to winning ways when Norwich travel to Goodison Park, while Sunderland take on fourth-place West Brom on the back of a morale-boosting away win at Fulham.
Stoke host Fulham at the Britannia Stadium while Wigan face Reading on Saturday, while Sunday sees Swansea take on former manger Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool, Southampton play Newcastle and Tottenham are at home to West Ham.