Roberto Di Matteo has paid the price for Chelsea's recent slump in form after being dismissed by the club today.
The 42-year-old Italian, who was only given the job on a permanent basis during the summer, saw his side crash to a 3-0 defeat at Juventus last night, putting them at risk of being the first Champions League holders to not qualify from the group stage.
Di Matteo becomes the first English Premier League manager to lose his job this season, after the club fell off the pace in recent weeks despite starting brightly in the competition.
The club said in a statement: "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.
"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 a 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."
Reports from the UK had linked Benitez with the post on a short-term basis, although Guardiola is still thought to top Roman Abramovich's wishlist.
The former Barcelona coach is on a year-long sabbatical from football, which would pave the way for a short-term appointment should he wish to continue his break from the game.
Chelsea said the club would make an announcement 'shortly' on Di Matteo's replacement.
Di Matteo took charge of Chelsea in March after the club had sacked Andre Villas-Boas, initially on a temporary basis.
He rescued the club's ailing Champions League campaign and steered them against all odds to victory over Bayern Munich in the final on the German team's home ground, having already secured the FA Cup.
He was given a two-year contract in June, but not before there had been major speculation over whether Guardiola would take over.
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