Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will hold a summit meeting on Friday, to decide whether to dismiss Andre Villa-Boas and parachute in Rafa Benitez, according to ESPNsoccernet sources
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On the eve of Chelsea's Premier League meeting with Bolton, and with an eye on the return Champions League leg with Napoli at Stamford Bridge, the Russian owner has a vital decision to make.
That decision now seems to boil down to whether to stick with the relatively raw Villas-Boas, or bring in a man of vast experience - with Benitez already earmarked for the role.
ESPNsoccernet understands Benitez will say "Si" to the Chelsea job if he is offered it as an immediate replacement for under-siege AVB.
AVB out, Benitez in at the Bridge is something being openly touted, as Andre Villa Boas becomes the club's latest "Dead Man Walking".
Claudio Ranieri was the first to play that role, when it was known he was going to be replaced by Jose Mourinho before a vital Champions League tie in Monaco. History might be repeating itself, with the possibility a decision over Benitez might be taken before Chelsea's last-16 return leg with Napoli.
The former Liverpool boss Benitez is seen as the coach to reignite the goalscoring flames of £50 million non-striker Fernando Torres, and also the man to glue together a dressing room that appears to be falling further apart by the day.
AVB's condemnation of Torres has hurt the hierarchy at the Bridge, all the way up to Roman Abramovich.
Villas-Boas, one-time back-room assistant to Jose Mourinho, came to the Bridge after a year of marvellous success at Porto but already finds himself under immense pressure.
Abramovich might have to decide, perhaps as early as the next 24 hours, whether he needs a coach of vast experience to rescue the season, just as Guus Hiddink did when "Big" Phil Scolari was sacked mid way through his first season in charge of Chelsea.
Following the crushing 3-1 defeat to Napoli, the Chelsea owner faces the daunting prospect of failing to make the top four and missing out on the Champions League next season, an option that he would find unacceptable.
Abramovich is loathe to ditch AVB having appointed him at such great risk, but it seems growing unhappiness at boardroom level is a a clear indication that the Russian owner is deliberating deeply about what to do next.
The word is he is undecided, rather than trigger happy, but Benitez availability is making it easier for him to opt for yet another high-profile managerial sacking.
Benitez has not worked since leaving Inter Milan at the end of 2010 and his agent has openly suggested the Spaniards desire to return to work in England, where options are limited at the highest level. Manuel Garcia Quilon has recently said Chelsea had not been in touch, but he hinted that Benitez would be most definitely interested.
Benitez led Liverpool to Champions League and FA Cup glory and Valencia to two La Liga titles, and the feeling is that he would have more chance of turning around the Napoli deficit in the Champions League and galvanizing the team to finish fourth than Villas-Boas