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Stamford Bridge's 33-year-old manager looks set to get the axe and Roman Abramovich already has the former Liverpool boss lined up to replace him until the end of the season

Andre Villas-Boas is on the verge of the sack and Chelsea already have Rafa Benitez lined up to take over the reins before Tuesday’s FA Cup replay with Birmingham, according to The Mail on Sunday.

Villas-Boas’ side was left embarrassed after Gareth McAuley’s late goal condemned them to 1-0 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion, piling more misery and pressure on the manager.

The Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, has already held preliminary talks with Benitez and when Villas-Boas was asked if he would still be on the touchline come Tuesday he said: “Don’t ask me, ask the owner.”

The Chelsea board was widely expected to give the ex-Porto boss the chop if his team could not overturn a two-goal deficit when they host Napoli in the Champions League, but Saturday’s defeat appears to have brought the likely dismissal date forward.

The former Liverpool and Valencia manager will only settle for an 18-month deal but so far he has only been offered the role until the end of the current campaign. The reason for a short-term contract is understood to be because Abramovich wants to secure the services of current Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in the summer.

Guardiola is mulling over a contract extension at the Nou Camp and has been heavily linked with the England job.

Villas-Boas’ days at Stamford Bridge appear to be numbered after falling out with Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, and comparing 50 million pound striker Fernando Torres with past Chelsea flops Andriy Shevchenko and Mateja Kezman.

With or without the 33-year-old at the helm, Chelsea needs to improve over the coming weeks if it is to salvage anything from this season of disappointment, and it apparently regard Benitez as the man to bring about such an improvement.

Nevertheless, The Mirror on Sunday insists that Abramovich only wants Benitez to take over for the remaining 11 games of the Premier League season before turning to Guardiola, whom he hopes to bring to the club in the summer.

The Barcelona manager was Chelsea's original target before it landed Villas-Boas, and given that the Catalan is stalling on a new contract, the Russian owner might yet get his way this time round.

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