Roman Abramovich is aiming to appoint a replacement for Roberto Di Matteo by the end of today after ruthlessly sacking another Chelsea manager in the early hours of this morning.

It is understood Blues owner Abramovich has identified the man he wants to bring in, with Rafael Benitez the bookmakers' favourite to land the job.

Abramovich is keen to have someone in place before Sunday's crunch Barclays Premier League game against Manchester City and Chelsea hope to make an announcement before tomorrow.

Pep Guardiola is said to be Abramovich's number one target amid reports the Russian will try to convince the former Barcelona boss to end his one-year sabbatical early.

If he fails, Abramovich will have to appoint a stopgap measure, with Benitez and Avram Grant favourites to fill the void left by Di Matteo.

"I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one of these clubs" - Rafa Benitez

Former Liverpool manager Benitez was quizzed in Abu Dhabi this morning about whether an approach had been made.

He said: "You ask directly, I cannot answer directly.

"In football, a lot of people are talking so we will see what happens in the next few days.

"I am looking for a club that can challenge for trophies and Chelsea is one of these clubs.

"I have to talk with my agent and see what he has been doing the last couple of days. But I am just trying to go to a team that can win."

That was much the same as Benitez said earlier this year when he was heavily linked with the job prior to Di Matteo's appointment as caretaker manager.

That proved to be the most spectacularly successful decision of Abramovich's time at Chelsea, with the Italian masterminding the greatest climax to a season in the club's history.

But not even delivering Abramovich's Holy Grail of the Champions League - as well as the FA Cup - could spare Di Matteo becoming the eighth manager jettisoned by the owner.

Last night's 3-0 defeat at Juventus - which left the Blues on the brink of surrendering the European Cup - was the final straw for Abramovich, who it is understood had already been considering wielding the axe following an alarming slump in form.