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Wilkins: Pellegrini, Poyet, Simeone & Zola on Abramovich's shortlist to replace Benitez

The former England midfielder claims the Blues legend's work at Watford has not gone unnoticed and that he is one of a select few coaching candidates for next season.

Former Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins said that club owner Roman Abramovich is a "big fan" of Watford manager Gianfranco Zola and that he is among four managers on the club's shortlist to replace interim boss Rafa Benitez at the end of the season.

Wilkins believes that Zola is one of four leading candidates alongside Malaga's Manuel Pellegrini, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and Gus Poyet of Brighton and Hove Albion.

"I think there are four contenders - [Manuel] Pellegrini, [Diego] Simeone, Gus Poyet and I also know for a fact he's a big fan of Gianfranco Zola, who is doing a tremendous job at Watford," Wilkins, who worked as assistant manager at Stamford Bridge between 2008 and 2010, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Despite Benitez's public criticism of Chelsea fans and his interim status last week, Wilkins said he expects the Spaniard to stay until the end of the season, and he urged the club to agree a new deal with midfielder Frank Lampard, who is out of contract in the summer.

"I think Frank has to stay. Frank has done more than a good job for Chelsea this season and will continue to do as long as he stays fit," Wilkins said.

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