• Terry says success will lift fans' pressure on manager
• Captain confident of fitness after recovery from knee injury
John Terry believes that Chelsea supporters will learn to tolerate Rafael Benítez if the team can keep winning until the end of the season. The captain, who is back to fitness after knee trouble and is confident of playing every three or four days, said that the fans are entitled to their opinions about the interim manager.
Benítez has repeatedly faced protests from a large section of the home support since his appointment in November but Terry does not feel that the simmering hostility affects the players and their ability to perform.
He started in Sunday's 4-0 FA Cup replay win over Brentford, which was Chelsea's third consecutive victory in all competitions, and he is characteristically upbeat about the chances of a strong finish to the season. The target is to pip Manchester City to second place in the Premier League and the players have the capacity to take the heat off Benítez and stop the abuse.
"It falls on us because if you are winning games, that gets taken away," Terry said. "If you are losing games, the pressure is on the manager. He has to take responsibility because he is the one who picks the team. So if we are not winning, as with all managers, it falls on his head, unfortunately.
"But if we are winning games and hopefully as a group of players we can do that, it takes the pressure off him and the fans can concentrate on winning games. They pay their money so they are entitled to echo their thoughts. All we can do is concentrate on our jobs and that is winning games. We beat Brentford and I didn't hear much. It takes it away.
"The fans have their opinion, and the players, and the most important thing is the team winning games. It's not about Rafa, it's not about me, it's not about Lamps [Frank Lampard], it's not about anybody. It's about this club winning games and if we are doing that, the fans are happy. That's all they want to see."
Terry argued that the difficulties Chelsea have experienced at Stamford Bridge under Benítez have been more to do with how opposing teams set up and attempt to stifle matches than any negative undercurrents from the stands.
"We've seen QPR come here, sit back and hit us on the counter," Terry said. "Brentford tried that and it doesn't matter what league they are in, when they come and sit back, it is difficult. Me and Gaz [Gary Cahill] were trying to break out, which leaves the space behind and if they have got pace, they can hit you on the counter.
"With the quality we have got, with people like Juan [Mata] and Lamps who can break down defences, it certainly will come. But it is frustrating, even when you are out there as players … when they have two banks of four, it makes it very difficult."
Terry also suggested that the club ought to grant Lampard the contract he craves. The 34-year-old's deal expires in the summer and there have been no talks as yet about an extension, despite the clamour from the fans.
"He has got so much more to give and he is an inspiration to everyone at the club," Terry said. "Still, at his age, he is the best trainer by a million miles. Kids can look at his goals and think 'he is just in the right position' but believe me, it is a lot of hard work before and after training.
"You can see he has always been very fit naturally, and that's despite the hard work he puts in before and after training. We all hope it's here but if not, he has certainly got years ahead of him [somewhere else], although I don't even want to think about that. I am not even going to entertain that."
Terry says that he is over the frustration of the longest injury absence of his career. He hyper-extended the knee against Liverpool on 11 November and damaged the ligaments at the front and on both sides and, after three or four weeks, it became clear that it would need some time to heal. He returned as a substitute at Stoke City on 12 January but Brentford represented only his third start since then, as he has suffered inflammation and struggled to train consistently.
He is adamant that the injury does not need to be managed as an ongoing problem. "One hundred per cent, no," he said. Asked whether he was fit and could play every three or four days, as Chelsea's schedule calls for, he added: "I think that is the case with everybody now. But I know it is going to be difficult for me to get back in. I have to fight for my place again."
Chelsea take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Sparta Prague on Thursday before they face City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. They trail the second-placed champions by four points. "We can still easily get second," Terry said. "If we can just improve our form by 15-20%, we will give Man City a run, for sure.
"We want to finish as high as possible – top two would be great – and we are in the FA Cup and Europa League to win them. Every year at this football club, we need trophies. Champions League qualification is also a must."