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SBD Global/March 1, 2013/Franchises

Chelsea's Rafa Benitez On Hot Seat; Mourinho 'Lined Up' To Return This Summer

Chelsea Coach Rafael Benitez believes that he has "earned a stay of execution" at the club after stating that he has an "excellent" relationship with Owner Roman Abramovich and that he expects to remain in charge until May, according to Oliver Kay of the LONDON TIMES. Benitez’s tirade Wednesday night at the club’s hierarchy and the supporters "seemed likely to hasten his departure from Stamford Bridge, perhaps even before Saturday’s match against West Bromwich Albion." However, in an interview with BBC Sport Thursday, he insisted that he "will be in charge until the end of the season." Benitez had already confirmed that he will leave Chelsea at the end of the season, suggesting that the supporters should stop “wasting their time” on him. But on Wednesday he accused supporters of "undermining the team by peddling an 'agenda' against him," saying that they would be responsible if the club miss out on Champions League qualification (LONDON TIMES, 2/28). In London, Dominic Fifield wrote while a number of former players on Thursday "led calls for Benítez to be relieved of his duties immediately," the board is focused on the game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and ensuring a top four finish this season (GUARDIAN, 2/28).

Also in London, Johnson & Olley reported Jose Mourinho is being "lined up to make a dramatic return to Chelsea in the summer, while Avram Grant has emerged as a serious contender to oversee the rest of Chelsea's season following Rafael Benitez's outburst." While the current interim manager will be in charge for Saturday's match against West Brom, "it could be the Spaniard's last game at the helm at Stamford Bridge." Should Benitez be let go after this weekend's game, he would become "the third manager in a row" to be fired by Abramovich following a fixture against the Baggies (INDEPENDENT, 2/28).
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