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Di Matteo sacked as Chelsea manager

It’s been a bittersweet year for Roberto Di Matteo. In May he won the greatest prize in club football, the Champions League, to add to the FA Cup he had already secured for Chelsea. In November he was sacked, after the club’s attempts to defend their trophy hit the rocks in the group stages.

When the bookmakers drew up their odds for the Premier League’s first managerial sacking of the season, few would have been backing the man who had won the Champions League, especially after Chelsea started the season playing fluid attacking football.

Recent results have been disappointing though, and a 3-0 defeat away to Juventus was the final straw for the habitually ruthless owner Roman Abramovich. A club statement announced the sacking on the morning after that defeat: "The team's recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season."

Abramovich had been reluctant to appoint Di Matteo to the post on a permanent basis, but the Italian’s popularity with the players and the undeniable facts that he had delivered two major trophies while in temporary charge forced his hand.

The instant reaction to the result in Turin suggests Chelsea already had a successor lined up. It is an open secret that Abramovich would favour the former Barcelona mastermind Pep Guardiola, but Guardiola is enjoying a year away from football after quitting the Nou Camp. Instead Chelsea may opt for a stopgap appointment until Guardiola becomes available in the summer of 2013.

Two potential candidates are the former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez and the former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. Both are currently available, but Redknapp has the additional advantage of being Chelsea star Frank Lampard’s uncle.

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