Premier League

Benitez plays down Terry rift report

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Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has played down reports of a bust-up with his players.

Reports have emerged of a heated exchange between Benitez and the Blues squad, led by captain John Terry, in the wake of their 2-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester City.

However, the Spaniard maintained there were no issues with any of his senior men as they look to secure a positive end to the season.

"This was a normal meeting between players and technical staff, which happens after every game, it was normal talk, nothing else. You show your disappointment, that is normal," Benitez said.

"I can understand the frustrations of Terry, he is an important player for us and has been injured with his knee.

"It was a very brief exchange of ideas, and that is it, nothing else. It is just a team talk after a defeat.

"We had a meeting on the pitch with my players and technical staff, which is part of our business.

"Now we have to move on and start thinking about Middlesbrough."

Asked about his relationship with the Chelsea players, Benitez said: "It is fantastic. I have no problem."

Benitez maintains everyone is united at the club to make sure they end the campaign on a positive note, having slipped down to third in the table following Tottenham's late win at West Ham Monday night.

"They are a good group of players, working hard and keen to learn. They were disappointed like me with the defeat, but that's it," he said.

"(We want to finish in the) top three, it is really important for us but, being a top side, we have to try and win every game.

"Middlesbrough were doing really well, but they have also had some games with problems.

"They have a good manager and a good team. They will give everything in the FA Cup, so it will be difficult."

With Chelsea continuing their progress in Europe, a replay in the FA Cup would be the last thing they need, should the Blues fail to set up a quarter-final tie with Manchester United at the first time of asking.

Benitez, though, maintains the team will only be looking to the next match on what is fast becoming a packed fixture list.

"We will try to win, for sure, that would be better, no? In my head, the only thing is just to win," he said.

"The team that has played more games in Europe is Chelsea, but we have to carry on and manage the squad as well as we can.

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"It is not ideal, but it is something we have to do.

"We have done it in the past with top sides and we will do the same."

Centre-back Gary Cahill has a virus, while full-back Cesar Azpilicueta has "discomfort in his leg", so Benitez will have to make some adjustments in defence.

Terry played for the Blues against Sparta Prague in their Europa League last-32 second-leg clash last week, but Benitez warned the former England skipper must continue to be carefully managed.

"He had the plan before and we have to decide (what is best)," Benitez said.

"He was training (today) and could finish the training session today, so he could play (at Middlesbrough)."

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