Premier League

Azpilicueta backing Benitez

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Fri, 29 Mar 2013 10:16:00

Southampton are sweating on the fitness of key trio Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Jos Hooiveld ahead of their home date with Chelsea, with all three nursing knocks.

They will be assessed ahead of the St Mary's clash, although manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes they will all be fit to feature.

Vegard Forren could make his Saints debut, having started Norway's 2014 World Cup qualifier against Albania.

Rafa Benitez may decide to shuffle his pack as Chelsea enter a crucial run of fixtures - with the Blues set to take in four games in nine days.

Fernando Torres was among those able to take a much-needed rest during the recent break from club commitments, and the Spaniard could be deployed as a lone frontman against the Saints.

Gary Cahill was forced to sit out a 2014 World Cup qualifying double-header with England with a knee problem, while Brazilian midfielder Ramires has picked up a thigh complaint, and both men will be assessed closer to kick-off.

Benitez has endured a tough time at Stamford Bridge since filling the managerial void created by Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal in November.

The Spaniard has struggled to win over a sceptical fan base, with past rivalries and inconsistency on the field working against him.

Benitez will, however, remain in charge until the end of the season, and Azpilicueta admits it is important that a united front is maintained as the club continue to compete on multiple fronts.

The Spanish full-back told The Independent: "The supporters have these feelings because they have clashed many times before but Rafa, right from the start, came in with so much enthusiasm and desire to get results and so we concentrate on that.

"Of course, it's easier when everyone is pulling in the same direction, but the world is not like that. There are so many different opinions. There are always people happier with the situation than others and it comes down to respecting everyone's position."

He added: "We still don't know what decision will be made by the club (in the summer). Right now we are with Rafa and we are concentrating on the here and now.

"Every day he is altering little things, modifying my game, we watch videos. He is passionate about football and always trying to make everything perfect."

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