Rafa Benitez: “I will return to Liverpool one day almost certainly”

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Rafa Benitez is an odd dude.

The Chelsea interim manager, who since arriving at Stamford Bridge has been constantly berated by supporters due to his past links with Liverpool, has expressed his desire to return to Anfield after his stint at Chelsea has concluded.

Following the controversial sacking of Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012, massive groups of Chelsea supporters launched into protests against Benitez’s appointment. The protests were based on comments the Spaniard made about Chelsea during his time as Liverpool manager.

One comment concerned Benitez’s praise of the passion of Liverpool fans, which included a sideways dig at Chelsea supporters. Instead of apologizing for his past comments Benitez refused to do so, claiming “I was praising the fans of my club, my team. But I’m here now, it’s my club, and I will do my best for them.”

The abuse persisted and still continues today although the Spanish manager admits it has abated of late. “There are not so many protests from the fans against me, we all know about four or five banners that have always been there but that’s a group of fans that is more worried about my past at Liverpool than actually criticizing me for my work or our play, and I can’t change that.”

Perhaps he couldn’t have changed it but he definitely could have contained it. Following his interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, however, that option is out the window. When asked what he wanted to do when his time at Chelsea was up the Spaniard explained how he would like to manage a competitive team in England. “We have to wait and see,” Benitez said. “I will return to Liverpool one day almost certainly, I just don’t know when, my daughters and wife are still living there.”

Granted, he gave himself an out by saying “almost” but it’s still unclear why Benitez choose now to unleash these remarks.

For months he’s suffered verbal abuse and only recently – having gotten Chelsea to 3rd in the table, the quarter-finals of the Europa League and the semi-finals of the FA Cup – has it receded. To come forward and proclaim his desire to return to Liverpool feels inflammatory and just plain daft, especially considering Chelsea’s upcoming visit to Anfield on April 21st.

One thing’s for sure – the comments will have Brendan Rodgers just as fired up as the Chelsea fans.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.