Newcastle defeat sees Benitez installed as favourite for the axe

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Chelsea’s capitulation at Newcastle has left interim boss Rafa Benitez favourite to be the next Premier League manager to be relieved of his duties.

The much-maligned Spaniard has moved ahead of Paul Lambert in the betting and can now be backed as short as 11/10 amid circulating rumours that Roman Abramovich will be adding his scalp to the growing list of high-profile bosses he’s axed should the Blues fail to beat Wigan next weekend.

After being firmly in the title race before their Russian owner inexplicably decided to dispense with Roberto Di Matteo’s services, the European champions are now embroiled in the scrap for Champions League spots.

Tottenham – managed by another deemed incapable of holding the fort at Stamford Bridge in Andre Villas-Boas – are now just one point behind them in fourth, while Everton are only four points adrift in fifth.

In Abramovich’s defence, should Rafa prove unable to mastermind a home victory over lowly Wigan then things are probably not meant to be for him at Chelsea, though his hopes of landing the role on a permanent basis at the end of the season must now be non-existent.

It looks as though that honour will be given to Jose Mourinho for the second time in his managerial career. The Portuguese and Abramovich appear to have buried the hatchet over the feud that cost the Real Madrid coach his job in 2007 and with Los Merengues ridiculously far off the pace in the Spanish title race, he is likely to be seeking new employment in the summer.

Given that Abramovich has sacked half of them, there aren’t many alternative candidates of sufficient pedigree to take the reins at Chelsea when Rafa does depart, while a manager like David Moyes would be insane to abandon all his good work at Everton to manage the west Londoners for a few months.

However, with Mourinho unlikely to be available until the season’s end, backing Benitez to depart before then would be a fool’s errand as, unless Bolo Zenden is going to be installed in a caretaker capacity until the summer – which would represent a massive punt on Abramovich’s part – there’s nobody available to fill his void.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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