Rafael Benitez hired as Chelsea interim manager

Chelsea have appointed former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez as interim manager until the end of the current season. Benitez replaces Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked on Wednesday following a 3-0 Champions League defeat by Juventus. The Spaniard, aged 52, becomes Chelsea's ninth manager since Roman Abramovich became owner in 2003. Reports claim this short-term appointment could mean that Abramovich will make a summer approach for ex-Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

A Chelsea statement said: "The owner and the board believe that in Benitez we have a manager with significant experience at the highest level of football, who can come in and immediately help deliver our objectives. The two-time Uefa Manager of the Year comes with outstanding pedigree." Benitez joined Liverpool from Valencia in 2004 and won the Champions League in 2005. Then he managed to reach the Champions League final in 2007 but left Anfield by mutual consent in 2010. Then he moved to Inter Milan but he got sacked in December 2010, after just six months in charge of the Serie A club.

His first match in charge is Sunday's visit of Premier League leaders and reigning champions Manchester City. Before his appointment was confirmed, Benitez admitted his interest in the job: "I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one of these clubs," he said. When he was asked about the prospect of managing on a short-term basis, he replied: "I am just trying to go to a team that can win. So we will find ways to have a challenge like this."

Former Chelsea midfielder Nigel Spackman said Benitez's appointment would be unpopular with Blues fans: "You won't find many Chelsea fans happy with an appointment of an ex-Liverpool manager. Benitez has got a great CV and a good record, but the only way he will win the Stamford Bridge crowd over is getting the results. Now he had to focus on trying to win the Premier League. He is the interim manager but if he does a good job maybe he will get it for longer."

David Johnstone, spokesman for Chelsea fanzine cfcuk, shared the same view: "Rafa Benitez is not a Chelsea manager," he said. "Some people are born to play for or manage certain clubs and for us, Benitez isn't what we want. When he was Liverpool manager and Jose Mourinho was Chelsea boss there was a bit of 'beef' between them. He was very dismissive of Chelsea, very rude towards us, and my impression of him was that whenever anything went wrong it was always somebody else's fault, not his."

Chelsea's declaration that Benitez will only remain in charge until the end fo the season indicates Abramovich is still interested in securing the services of Guardiola once the former Barcelona manager decides to return to the game. Guardiola, aged 41, is currently on a 12-month sabbatical after leaving Barcelona at the end of last season.

Chelsea meet Manchester City on Sunday, here are the odds from Bet365:

Chelsea win - 6/4
Draw - 5/2
Man City win - 17/10

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