New manager Rafael Benitez will begin his reign at Chelsea on Thursday
New boss Rafael Benitez will meet Chelsea's players today as he attempts to swiftly revive the club's flagging fortunes.
Last Updated: 22/11/12 12:03pm
The Spaniard was quickly installed in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat on Wednesday night on an interim deal until the end of the season, just hours after Roberto Di Matteo was axed following the club's 3-0 defeat by Juventus in the UEFA Champions League.
Benitez will appear at a news conference on Thursday afternoon after cutting short an engagement in the Middle East, and he will have little time in which to prepare his side for Sunday's crucial Premier League home date against Manchester City.
Four league games without a win have seen Chelsea slip four points behind leaders City, while the Champions League holders face elimination at the group stage following a dismal result in Turin.
Benitez will be reunited with Fernando Torres in west London and will be hoping to bring the best out of the struggling striker, who enjoyed a prolific spell while working with him at Liverpool.
The 52-year-old, who will name Boudewijn Zenden as his assistant according to the Dutchman's father and agent, may also have to win over the club's supporters as he was involved in some fiery clashes with Chelsea during his reign at Anfield.
But he must find his feet fast, with London derbies against Fulham and West Ham on the horizon following the top-of-the-table clash with City.
Benitez has been drafted in by Chelsea in their hour of need due to his vast experience of Premier League and European football, and they are convinced that they have the right man for the job.
On announcing his appointment, a statement released by the Blues 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 on Thursday.
"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."
While offered the opportunity to guide Chelsea towards a future they hope will be brighter than their recent past, Benitez will be hard pushed to match the achievements of the man he has just replaced.
Di Matteo, who initially inherited the reins on a caretaker basis before being handed a permanent deal over the summer, guided the Blues to Champions League and FA Cup success in 2011/12.
An impressive trophy haul helped the former Italy international to cement his cult hero standing in the eyes of the Chelsea supporters - after earning a reputation as a man for the big occasion during his playing days at Stamford Bridge - and Di Matteo insists the time he has spent with the club over two spells will always hold a special place in his heart.
"It was an honour for me to be appointed manager of a club that I loved playing for and one that is so close to my heart," he said in a statement issued by the League Managers Association.
"I am extremely proud of the successes and trophies that we were able to bring to the club in recent months.
"Lifting Chelsea's first Champions League trophy, in Munich, was the best achievement in club history and without doubt the highlight of my career to date, both as a player and manager. It is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life.
"I have a deep and unreserved passion for Chelsea Football Club and I would like to sincerely thank all of the staff, my players and of course the Chelsea fans, for their tremendous and unconditioned support in the intense time I have been the manager at the Bridge. I wish all of them every success for the rest of the season and beyond."