Benitez needs to win the Cup to stay at Chelsea but old foes Leeds will be no pushover, says legend of both clubs Hasselbaink
16:30 GMT, 18 December 2012
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink believes tomorrow night’s Capital One Cup tie at Leeds United is critical for Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez if he is to have any chance of keeping his job long-term.
The former Dutch international was a prolific goalscorer at both Leeds and Chelsea, and is thrilled that the quarter-final at Elland Road will re-ignite a spicy, but dormant, rivalry.
However, he warns that if Benitez is to win over the Stamford Bridge faithful and impress owner Roman Abramovich, he probably needs to win the League Cup early next year.
Up for the Cup: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink played for both Leeds and Chelsea and is pleased their rivalry is to be renewed in the Capital One Cup tomorrow
Championship side Leeds will scent an upset, particularly with Chelsea facing a quick turnaround from their trip to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup, where they lost 1-0 in the final to Brazilian side Corinthians on Sunday.
Hasselbaink, 40, said the failure of Benitez to bring home the Club World Cup heaps even more pressure on them ahead of the match at Leeds, because he knows Chelsea would be the clear favourites out of the four semi-finalists.
‘It will help Benitez greatly to win the Capital One Cup,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘It’s even more important now they haven’t won the Club World Cup because all the Chelsea fans and the owner would have expected him to win that.
Must win: Following the disappointment of losing the Club World Cup final on Sunday, the quarter-final at Leeds takes on extra significance for Rafael Benitez
‘The European clubs normally win that competition and Chelsea may have to wait a long time to win the Champions League again and get another shot at it.
‘So now, the League Cup is a very important to Chelsea. They have been fielding strong teams anyway and I bet you they won’t take any chances with the team selection at Leeds.
‘The preparation has not been ideal. They arrived back today and so they only have a day to prepare. You’re tired and jetlagged from the long flight and then you have to go up to Leeds.
‘Benitez will have to find a way to get through this tie, find a way to beat Leeds because if they do get through, they’re the absolute clear favourites to win the competition.’
Prolific: Hasselbaink was a fan favourite at Elland Road, scoring 42 goals in 87 matches in his two seasons in Yorkshire
That is not a disrespectful remark, just a matter of fact that Chelsea will fancy their chances in a semi-final line-up alongside Bradford City, Swansea City and Aston Villa.
But as Bradford proved in eliminating Arsenal on penalties last week, nothing can be taken for granted in a competition which has provided great entertainment this season.
Leeds, currently 12th in the Championship, have had plenty of time to perfect their game plan ahead of Chelsea’s visit and are in good form, having won four of their last five.
Hasselbaink is in a good position to talk about the long-standing enmity between the two teams. He arrived in Leeds in 1997 following playing spells at unglamorous sides in the Netherlands and Portugal and quickly became a fan favourite through his prolific scoring.
Leeds had just avoided dropping out of the top flight under the stewardship of George Graham, but with Hasselbaink leading the line, they found themselves challenging for Europe. In all, he notched 42 goals in 87 matches at Elland Road.
Following a season at Atletico Madrid, Hasselbaink returned to England as Chelsea’s record signing – his 15m price tag subsequently dwarfed by the Abramovich-era spending but nonetheless brought its own pressures.
Thankfully, they were no problem for him and his four seasons at Stamford Bridge yielded 87 goals in 176 games, if no real silverware.
Screamer: Hasselbaink finds the net for Chelsea against Manchester United in September 2000
Sharp shooter: Jimmy scored 87 goals in 176 games for Chelsea
Hasselbaink has a good stab at explaining a bitter and enduring rivalry: ‘In the 1970s, they played against each other in the Cup and kicked the hell out of each other! It’s nice that football fans never forget that and remind the players about it, because the players obviously change over the years.
‘There are a lot of fans who saw those games in the seventies who are still watching the clubs now. It might be the case that Leeds especially will play aggressively. Not ‘dirty’ but with tackles flying in, especially in the first 20 minutes.’
The sides haven't met competitively for eight years, during which time an awful lot has happened. Chelsea, fuelled by the petro-roubles of Abramovich have challenged consistently for honours at home and abroad. They were finally crowned Kings of Europe this year and also claimed the FA Cup.
Leeds, by contrast, have found the road leading them back to the Premier League – from which they were relegated in 2004 – a long and winding one. They dropped down to the third tier for three seasons but, slowly but surely, they are now finding their strength again.
A few robust challenges early doors tomorrow night will have little comparison to some of the X-rated encounters in the seventies and eighties that gave birth to this particular manifestation of the north-south divide.
Chelsea were seen as the glamorous and fashionable London side, who tried to play attractive football, while Leeds were the epitome of Yorkshire grit with an uncompromising approach to the tackle.
No love lost: Meetings between Chelsea and Leeds United in the 1970s and 1980s were no-holds-barred affairs
Hasselbaink, who now works as a first team coach at Nottingham Forest, has no doubt that Leeds boss Neil Warnock will have his players well versed in the rivalry, perhaps in contrast to some of Chelsea’s South Americans.
‘It will of course be an advantage if the likes of David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar are in the team, but equally, they don’t know anything about the rivalry between Leeds United and Chelsea. They soon will however!
‘Benitez will keep it solid and play his sitting midfielders. He has changed that from [Roberto] Di Matteo, who was all-attack. They were very good going forward but lax defensively.
‘But I was an attacking player, so I want to see attacking football. But I understand why Benitez plays deep-sitting midfielders because if Chelsea keep a zero at the back, they have a big chance of winning games at the other end as they always look like scoring.’
Despite being a fellow striker, Hasselbaink has no sympathy for Fernando Torres, the 50m Chelsea frontman whose performances remain the topic of intense scrutiny despite a recent burst of goals.
No sympathy: Hasselbaink says Fernando Torres must learn to live with the expectation of his 50m transfer tag and score more important goals
‘Sympathise is a big word. When you become a striker, you want to be successful and you want people to look at you and say, ‘He was one of the best.’ If that is the case, your transfer is going to be 50m but as a player you want that recognition.
‘But that also brings pressure with it and you need to be able to cope with it. Obviously, in the beginning, he struggled with whatever was the issue but of late he’s been scoring goals.
‘He’s scored 12 goals and at least he has found the net. I would like to see him score more important, decisive goals – more 1-0s, 1-1s, 2-1s. Those are the goals that separate you from an ordinary striker and he has not done that enough for my liking.’
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was talking to the Mail Online on behalf of Capital One. To join the debate ahead of Round 5 of the Capital One Cup, visit facebook.com/capitaloneuk