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A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United – Match made in Heaven?

Mourinho-United

Sir Alex Ferguson recently in an interview admitted that the Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho can manage anywhere in the world and is more than capable of replacing him as Manchester United manager.

Mourinho this year completed his decade in European football and it seems like everything he touches turns in gold. He won the League and the Champions League with Porto, the Premier League and the FA Cup with Chelsea, the Treble (Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League) with Inter Milan and the La Liga with Real Madrid. However, his biggest challenge of his career could come in Manchester.

There has been a lot of talk of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement this season with many different names – like Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, David Moyes, Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to name a few – linked to succeed him at Old Trafford. The Scot has openly admitted that one manager who is certainly good enough to do the job is Mourinho. A brilliant coach with a brilliant track record.

Here, we have a look at the five reasons why Mourinho and Manchester United are a match made in heaven…

1. Challenge

Mourinho loves a challenge, whether it was making Porto a European giant or making Chelsea a English powerhouse or winning the unprecedented treble with Inter or stopping Barcelona’s dominance in the La Liga, he just loves them and there won’t be any bigger challenge than coaching Manchester United once Fergie has hung up his coat. On the pitch, United are one of the top clubs in the world and will provide him with the opportunity of fulfilling his dream of winning the Champions League with an English club.

2. Guaranteed Success

The Portuguese boss is a winner and knows how to win the major trophies. He has won the league in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain and also has the experience needed to manage a top side like Manchester United having managed Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid. He will keep United at the top of their game and will ensure that there is no fallout period when Fergie has gone. Ferguson has been at the club for more than 25 years and ensuring there is no fallout period will be one of the biggest priorities for the club as they will be expected to challenge for the Premier League and the Champions League.

3. Brilliant Tactician

Like Ferguson, Mourinho is a brilliant tactician and that makes him a slight favourite to succeed the Scot at the helm of Old Trafford ahead of Guadriola and Moyes. United will need a tactical genius to replace Fergie, as he will be very important for all the future battles the club will have with Manchester City and Chelsea over the league title and other giants in Europe. Ferguson is not afraid of making the big and bold tactical decisions during the big games and Mourinho would carry this element of the side forward perfectly.

4. Brilliant Off The Pitch

Mourinho is not only brilliant at getting the results on the pitch but also off it. He is second to none when it comes to man management and sticking up for his players and his club in general. Very few outside United can target the club without some form of retribution from Sir Alex and this is something that would carry on under Mourinho’s guidance. Like the Scot, he is a great motivator and also good at playing the mind games, giving his side the psychological advantage before an important game. At the same time, he is a brilliant coach to watch in any press conference.

5. Perfect Opportunity To Settle Down

Mourinho is known more of a journeyman as he moves on quickly from one club to the next after he has achieved success. This aspect of him will have to change because United will not appoint someone they don’t expect to have the same sort of longevity as Ferguson. This is why some fans are saying that Guardiola would be a better option than Mourinho. But, to be honest, the Portuguese boss hasn’t got a chance to show his longevity at any of his clubs. When he was at Porto, a super-rich Chelsea came calling and it was always going to be very difficult for anyone to reject Roman Abramovich’s cash and the chance to manage in the Premier League. After three years at Stamford Bridge and a series of disagreements with the chairman, he was asked to leave and later he joined Inter. He won the treble with the Italians and then came Real Madrid. Who wouldn’t want to manage the most successful club in the world? However, he isn’t going to keep changing clubs forever, sooner or later he is going settle down somewhere and Manchester United could provide him with perfect opportunity to do so.

So, what do you think? Should Manchester United go for Mourinho? Will he be a success at Old Trafford?

Top Ten Best-Paid Managers In The World

best-paid managers

Brazilian sports business consultants – Pluri Consultoria – have this week published online a list of the best-paid football managers in the world, by annual salary.

There is no surprise who heads the pack but there are some interesting names on the list. Here at IntoTheTopCorner, we have a look at the top ten managers from that rich list…

10. ROBERTO MANCINI (MANCHESTER CITY | €5.9 MILLION)

Roberto-Mancini

When you are managing a club owned by oil-rich owners you are expected to be earning a huge annual salary and it’s no surprise to see the current Manchester City manager on the list, perhaps that he is tenth on the list is a bit surprising. The former Inter and Lazio boss has won the FA Cup and the Premier League during his time at Eastlands and is at the helm of Europe’s few undefeated teams in the league this season.

9. JOSE CAMACHO (CHINA | €5.9 MILLION)

Jose-Camacho

In order to catch up with the Asian heavyweights like Japan and South Korea, the rich Chinese FA searched in many parts of Europe – mainly the Netherlands, Germany and Spain – for an experienced coach, and appointed Jose Camacho. The former Spain and Real Madrid coach was given the job with objective of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Despite his huge annual paycheck the Spaniard failed and is now preparing for next year’s Asian Cup.

8. TITO VILANOVA (BARCELONA | €7 MILLION)

Tito-Vilanova

Taking over at Barcelona is not an easy job especially from the club’s most successful manager in history – Pep Guardiola. However, the former assistant is justifying his millions in his first top-flight job and currently has a win rate of 86%, which is more than his predecessor. The Catalan giants are 11 points clear of Real Madrid in the league and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

7. FABIO CAPELLO (RUSSIA | €7.8 MILLION)

Fabio-Capello

A CV boasting of five Serie A titles, one Champions League and two La Liga titles, it’s no surprise that the Italian is the best-paid international manager in the world during his current tenure as Russia coach. His current salary is a slight increase than what he earned during his time as England coach, where his contributions were a bit disappointing. However, the Russians under Capello are undefeated with five win in seven games and are at the top of their World Cup qualifying group.

6. GUUS HIDDINK (ANZHI MAKHACHKALA | €8.3 MILLION)

Guus-Hiddink

Like Capello, the Dutchman has also enjoed a long and successful managerial career at club and international level. After failing to qualify for Euro 2012 in Poland & Ukraine with Turkey, Hiddink joined the Russian moneybags earlier this year. With Anzhi second in the Russian Premier League, the former Chelsea boss has announced that his current annual paycheck will be the last one as he will be retiring at the end of the season.

5. ARSENE WENGER (ARSENAL | €9.3 MILLION)

Arsene-Wenger

With his intelligent spending, innovative training techniques and brilliant ability to develop youngsters, the Frenchman might be the cleverest manager in the game and he gets very well paid for that. Wenger has delivered three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and 15 consecutive seasons of Champions League football since taking over at Arsenal in 1996. Yet his willingness to sell Arsenal’s best players has been identified as a major flaw by the fans. With the Gunners virtually out of the title race, Wenger’s days may be numbered if his team fails to finish in the top four.

4. SIR ALEX FERGUSON (MANCHESTER UNITED | €9.4 MILLION)

Sir-Alex-Ferguson

The Scot has been at the same job – Manchester United – for over 25 years, which makes his annual salary seem relatively modest compared to ones above him in the list. The Red Devils were in deep trouble when he took over and has made them one of most successful teams in the world by winning 12 league titles, two Champions Leagues, five FA Cups and four League Cups. This season, Sir Alex’s side remain on course for yet another league title and have also reached the last-16 of the Champions League.

3. MARCELLO LIPPI (GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE | €10 MILLION)

Marcello-Lippi

A manager whose resume boasts a World Cup, five Serie A titles and a Champions  League is expected to earn an annual salary in double figures. The former Italy coach joined the Chinese Super League champions in May this year on a two-and-a-half year contract worth up to €30 million. So far, Lippi has fulfilled the club’s expectations by guiding them to their second consecutive league title in October and also by winning the Chinese FA Cup in November for the first time evert in the club’s history.

2. CARLO ANCELOTTI (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN | €13.5 MILLION)

Carlo-Ancelotti

The Italian proved that getting sacked at Chelsea doesn’t put a dent to your managerial career when he signing a multi-million Euro deal to take over at Qatar-funded PSG last year. He took charge when the French side were at the top of the league, but failed to guide them to the title. Despite spending heavily during the transfer windows, he has yet to bring any silverware to the Paresians. However, the former Milan boss could turn things around this season, as PSG are third in the league – five points behind Lyon – and are through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

1, JOSE MOURINHO (REAL MADRID | €15.3 MILLION)

Jose-Mourinho

The Portuguese takes home the largest amount each year and it is hardly surprising given his extraordinary record since guiding Porto to an historic treble in 2003. The Special One has won league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain and has also won the Champions League with Porto and Inter. However, things aren’t going well for him in the current campaign, with Los Blancos 11 points behind leaders Barcelona. Such a margin is a bit too much in the La Liga and if Mou fails to bring the Champions League to the Bernabeu, he might get his marching orders at the end of the season.

Here are the remaining twenty managers from the 30-man rich list..

11. Frank Rijkaard (Saudi Arabia | €5.3 Million)
12. Jupp Heynckes (Bayern Munich | €5.2 Million)
13. Andre Villas-Boas (Tottenham Hotspur | €4.5 Million)
14. Harry Redknapp (Queens Park Rangers | €4 Million)
15. Jorge Jesus (Benfica | €4 Million)
16. David Moyes (Everton | €3.6 Million)
17. Manuel Pellegrini (Malaga | €3.6 Million)
18. Paulo Autuori (Qatar | €3.6 Million)
19. Abel Braga (Fluminense | €3.5 Million)
20. Luciano Spaletti (Zenit St Petersburg | €3.3 Million)
21. Antonio Conte (Juventus | €3 Million)
22. Cesare Prandelli (Italy | €3 Million)
23. Luxemburgo (Gremio | €3 Million)
24. Muricy (Santos | €3 Million)
25. Tite (Corinthians | €3 Million)
26. Ottmar Hitzfeld (Switzerland | €2.6 Million)
27. Joachim Low (Germany | €2.5 Million)
28. Marcelo Biesla (Athletic Bilbao | €2.5 Million)
29. Martin O’Neill (Sunderland | €2.5 Million)
30. Roy Hodgson (England | €2.5 Million)

Rafa Benitez Named New Interim Chelsea Boss – Is He The Right Man For Job?

Rafael Benitez has been appointed as the new interim Chelsea manager till the end of the season just hours after Roberto Di Matteo was sacked for ‘unacceptable’ run of results.

According to some reports in England, the Blues made an approach to Pep Guardiola earlier this week but the former Barcelona manager insisted he will not be returning to work until 2013. Former Liverpool boss Benitez cut short his appointments in Abu Dhabi to fly to London for talks and he has been appointed as “interim” manager until the end of the current campaign.

A statement on Chelsea official website read:

Chelsea Football Club can confirm Rafael Benitez has been appointed interim first-team manager until the end of the season.

The owner and the Board believe that in Benitez we have a manager with significant experience at the highest level of football, who can come in and immediately help deliver our objectives.

The 52-year-old Spaniard is due to meet the players at the training ground in Cobham tomorrow.

The two-time UEFA Manager of the Year comes with outstanding pedigree. He began his managerial career in his homeland, most notably at Valencia where he built a reputation as one of Europe’s top coaches by winning the Spanish League twice and the UEFA Cup. He then spent six years at Liverpool and led them to their fifth European Cup and an FA Cup.

The Spaniard becomes the ninth manager under Russian owner Roman Abramovich and his first match in charge will be Sunday’s massive Premier League clash with league leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

Is he the right man for the job?

Yes

There is no compensation to pay, he is free, he is available at the moment so he can come in straight away. But the biggest thing is the fact he is an experienced manager. He has won two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup with Valencia and then has guided Liverpool to Champions League and FA Cup glory during his five years at Anfield. Another good thing about him is that he doesn’t care about anybody’s egos, he doesn’t care how big a name they are. Nobody bothered him during his Liverpool days and so I guess he can handle the Chelsea players.

Fernando Torres has not at all hit his top form during his time at Stamford Bridge and he may well be the man who could get the best out of him. He is the same man who made Torres the £50million striker at Anfield and he could do the same again. Bringing him in is probably Abramovich’s last effort to get the goals out of his record signing.

No

Giving Rafa the job is not going to be a popular choice at all. The fans don’t like him for two reasons. He and them have a little history that goes back, but also the way his team plays. So he hasn’t got many fans to start with in the first place. But in football, if he can start winning a few games, especially the important ones, then the fans can turn towards you and support you. We will have to wait and see if that happens.

His selling and buying track record is not good at all. He made the move that was the beginning of Liverpool’s decline in 2009/10 when he sold Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid and replaced him by Alberto Aquilani – who was a complete disaster. He has also made some questionable signings during his Liverpool days like Jermaine Pennant (£6m), Ryan Babel (£11.5m), Andrea Dossena (£7m) and Robbie Keane (£19m), so it would be very interesting to see if he is given the money to spend on new players in January. Finally, can he cope up with the mind games of  Sir Alex Ferguson? He failed to do so during his Liverpool days and that costed them the title.

Robeto Di Matteo Sacked As Chelsea Boss – Not Surprising At All!!

Chelsea have sensationally sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo following their 3-0 defeat to the Italian champions Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Less than seven months after guiding the Blues to FA Cup and Champions League glory, Di Matteo has been shown the door at Stamford Bridge for the club’s poor performances in this season’s Champions League. Chelsea are currently third in Group E behind leaders Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus, and are on the verge of becoming the first defending champions to be eliminated in the group stages.

A statement on Chelsea’s official website read:

The team’s recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the Board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season.

The club faces a difficult task ahead in qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League as well as maintaining a strong challenge for the top of the Premier League while competing in three other cup competitions. Our aim is to remain as competitive as possible and challenge strongly on all fronts.

The owner and the Board would like to thank Roberto for all he has done for the club since taking over in March. Roberto helped guide us to an historic Champions League victory and a seventh FA Cup. We will never forget the huge contribution he has made to this club’s history and he will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge.

The club will be making an announcement shortly regarding a new first team manager.

What went wrong?

The sacking of Roberto Di Matteo just six months after he won the FA Cup and Champions League is a bit unlucky, but to be honest not surprising at all!! It was always going happen, but it has happened quicker than anyone expected. The Italian was never Roman Abramovich’s man for the permanent job in the first place, but he won the Champions League last season (by accident maybe) and that probably forced the Russian billionaire to give him the job at the start of the season.

Actually, the dressing room with the likes of John Terry, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech won the trophy, not the manager. He has tried to change the style of football. A powerful team has been replaced by skillful young players and that has resulted in some eye-catching, mouth-watering sparkling football, but at the same time have also been overpowered by the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United.

The Blues started the season with the chance of winning seven trophies but are now on the freefall and that has made Abramovich furious. Although the owner was kind enough to overlook the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City, he was mad with the 4-1 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup even after spending more than £80million on new players.

Chelsea need a miracle to make it through Group E of the Champions League and in danger of becoming the first holders in the history of the competition to be eliminated in the group phase. The  failure to get out of the group stages of Europe’s most prestigious club competition is a pretty poor return for a club with a huge wage bill and a big transfer kitty and Di Matteo even admitted himself that ‘if you fail at Chelsea, you lose your job’. He has paid the price for it.

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Who Next?

According to various reports across the UK, former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez are being linked with the new managerial vacancy at Stamford Bridge, with the latter believed to be the front runner for the job.

Roman Abramovich is obssessed with bringing Pep Guardiola and his style of football to Chelsea, but the former Barcelona midfielder is currently on a year’s sabbatical in New York and would need a ‘phenomenal’ offer cut that short. On the other hand, Benitez, who was in Abu Dhabi this morning, is expected to be flying into England on Thursday and could be given the job until the end of the season.

Other likely candidates for the job are former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, former Chelsea boss and current Anzhi head coach Guus Hiddink, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho and former England manager Fabio Capello, but Benitez remains the favourite.

Chelsea are expected to make the appointment of the new manager before Friday, ahead of the club’s key fixture against the reigning Premier League champions and current league leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

New Nike “My Time Is Now” Ad

Nike have launched a new marketing campaign entitled ‘My Time is Now’ ahead of the European Championships, featuring a constellation of star names including Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery, Wesley Sneijder and more.

The new ad has been released for the first time today and will be screened during the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea on Saturday. Other players you should be able to spot include Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Mario Götze, Mesut Özil, Yann M’Vila, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck while there are also special guest appearances from Pep Guardiola, Lauren Blanc and basketball superstar LeBron James.

Check it out here…

Where Next For Guardiola?

It was on Friday announced Pep Guardiola is to leave Barcelona at the end of the season after deciding he does not want to renew his rolling one-year contract. The classy Catalan, at an emotional press conference, has explained his reasons for deciding the time is right to quit Camp Nou. But what now for Guardiola?

Here Into The Top Corner looks at his possible destinations.

Arsenal

Arsene Wenger’s contract comes to an end in the summer of 2014. He has been one of the most loyal and successful manager ever to have managed in the English game. In the past he has turned down many lucrative offers from other clubs because of his love towards Arsenal and belief in the brand of football the team plays. Arsenal’s style is without doubt the closest to Barcelona’s and with both Wenger and Guardiola’s very similar to each other, it would be a very smooth transition to bring in the Spaniard. If Wenger moves upstairs to become Director of Football, the potential relationship with Guardiola would be one that every other club in the word would envy.

SkyBet Odds – 9/4

Chelsea 

 This is surely not a match made in heaven given the past record of Chelsea in handling their managers. Under Abramovich era, a nine-year spell has been filled with knee-jerk reactions and countless attempts at quick fixes. But he might still try to tempt him with all the money but this tactic might not work with the Spaniard. Guardiola is a man who believes in long-term goals and giving chance to young players, and surely this strategy does not go hand in hand with Chelsea. And keeping in mind that Pep is going to take a sabbatical for at least an year, that would also work against Chelsea as the Russian wants his man now, rather than in a year’s time.

SkyBet Odds – 11/4

England

Fabio Capello’s shock resignation in February after the John Terry saga threw England’s final preparations for Euro 2012 into chaos. The FA will have been confident of naming a successor by now but that has not materialised. Harry Redknapp still remains the favourite to land the job but with the big dip in form of Tottenham over the last two months and the rise of Alan Pardew at Newcastle, has given the FA something to think about. The FA have made clear that they will be announcing a permanent manager towards end of the season and with Guardiola now available they might just be tempted to try and get the Spaniard. The England job is still one of the most prestigious in football and with Guardiola needing a break from football, what better way than to take a less demanding international job.

SkyBet Odds – 4/1

Manchester United 

With each passing season, the debate surrounding who will replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford becomes more intense and intriguing. Will it be Jose Mourinho or David Moyes or Pep Guardiola? No on really knows but one man who will have a major say on that decision is surely Fergie himself. The ideal thing for United and their fans will be to move Fergie up to a directorial position and do everything to bring Guardiola in. The Scot will no doubt decide his own future but if Guardiola sticks to his promise of taking a year out of the game, the Spaniard could well be in line to take over at Old Trafford for the 2013/14 season.

SkyBet Odds – 6/1

Manchester City

This will surely be a match made in heaven for the blue half of Manchester. Though it is expected that whatever be the outcome of the Premier League title race, Roberto Mancini will remain as City’s manager next season. But should he fail in his quest, their mega-rich Arab owners may hound Guardiola to take over. And keeping in mind City’s craving for silverware and limitless cash in the offering, Guardiola would surely want to manage a team that wants to dominate world football.

SkyBet Odds – 8/1

Liverpool

Which his achievements at Barcelona, its obvious that every top club will be interest in him and so will be the Reds from Merseyside. With Liverpool having one of the their worst season’s in the Premier League, Guardiola could well be the man to bring back old glory days. Many people may scoff the suggestion but the Spaniard has already won everything possible in the modern game, so going to other moneybags club that can easily win trophies doesn’t seem much of a challenge. At Liverpool, he could truly build something from the ground up and create a lasting dynasty, something that may be appalling to the Spaniard.

SkyBet Odds – 10/1

Inter Milan

Inter President Massimo Moratti has long admired and sought Guardiola as his coach after the 2010 European champions fell on tough times following the departure of Jose Mourinho. Moratti would do everything in his power to capture the Catalan and would be prepared to leave interim boss Andrea Stramaccioni in charge for the foreseeable future until Guardiola made his mind up. Guardiola knows a lot about the Serie A having played at Brescia.

SkyBet Odds – 14/1

AC Milan

Club owner Silvio Berlusconi likes his glamour signings and bringing in Guardiola would appeal to him especially if it put Inter’s nose out of joint. Massimiliano Allegri did well to win Serie A with Milan last term but they look like being beaten to the title by Juventus this season and a bigger name would go down well among some supporters.

SkyBet Odds – 14/1

Tottenham

Spurs have been the most entertaining side in the Premier League this season and with their Harry Redknapp the favourite to be named the new England boss, Tottenham could well be managerless at the end of the season. With Guardiola available, the Spurs chairman could very tempted to bring in the Catalan and give him the job. Spurs have a very talented team with the likes of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Scott Parker etc and with Guardiola in charge plus some new players coming in in during the transfer window, the Lilllywhites could well be world beaters.

SkyBet Odds – 16/1

Spain

If Vicente Del Bosque leads Spain to a successful defence of their Euro title in June and July to go with their World Cup triumph, he could decide to leave, opening the door for Guardiola. Being Spain boss would not bring the daily pressure of club coaching and will suit him the most because most of the Barcelona players make the Spanish national side. But Guardiola is a proud Catalan and the national job might not appeal at such a young managerial age.

SkyBet Odds – 25/1

Qatar 

Guardiola had a spell as a player with Al Ahli in Doha so has contacts in the Gulf state and could be richly rewarded leading either a club side or the national side ahead of their hosting of the 2022 World Cup. A stress-free time in Qatar in the short-term could increase his bank balance and then give the Qataris time to see how Carlo Ancelotti does at Pari St Germain which they own. Paris might then appeal to Guardiola given the immense transfer funds in an easier league and the personal wealth available.

SkyBet Odds – 50/1