• Premier League

Chelsea axe Roberto Di Matteo

ESPN staff
November 21, 2012

Roberto Di Matteo has been sacked by Chelsea. The Italian, who guided the Blues to Champions League glory last term, has been removed following the defeat to Juventus on Tuesday.

Chelsea made an excellent start to the Premier League and topped the table last month, but they have had an alarming dip in results both domestically and in Europe in recent weeks.

A defeat to Juventus on Tuesday sees them on the brink of exit from the Champions League, which would make them the first defending champions not to progress from the group stage. And with that in mind, the club have acted to make a change at the top.

"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," read a statement on Chelsea's official website.

"The club faces a difficult task ahead in qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League as well as maintaining a strong challenge for the top of the Premier League while competing in three other cup competitions. Our aim is to remain as competitive as possible and challenge strongly on all fronts.

"The owner and the board would like to thank Roberto for all he has done for the club since taking over in March. Roberto helped guide us to an historic Champions League victory and a seventh FA Cup. We will never forget the huge contribution he has made to this club's history and he will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge."

Di Matteo was appointed as caretaker manager at Stamford Bridge in March 2012 after Andre Villas-Boas' departure, and the Italian's achievements of lifting the Champions League and FA Cup trophies earned him a two-year contract in June. But a run of two wins in eight matches in all competitions led to suggestions he could be relieved of his role by owner Roman Abramovich, who has overseen five permanent managerial appointments since taking over at the club in 2003.

Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has long been linked with Chelsea, while a report on Wednesday morning claimed ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez had been sounded out as a short-term option.

A new man could be in place soon, as the Chelsea statement continued: "The club will be making an announcement shortly regarding a new first team manager."

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